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Top 10 Signs your Project is Failing

June 22, 2010


10- Your project is based on your CEO’s dream, but no one is clear about its business value to the company.

9- Your customer is too busy on other programs, too weak in support, and unable/unwilling to delegate.

8- Your management wants to start working, and worry about planning later.  [tweetmeme source=”@Aidan_Foley” only_single=false]

7- Duration estimates are down-sized by your Management, and ultimately take as long as you said it would.

6- Management directs Project Manager to ignore vague contract terms.

5- Management warns Project Manager against raising issues with customers during the planning phase.

4- Functional Managers are providing the wrong resources to assist with the scheduled tasks.

3- Customer reps accept work verbally, but refuses to put it in writing.

2- Customer’s expectations are too high, and misunderstood by estimation team.

1- Project Manager is too worried about losing job, so avoids making people angry.



10- Quantify in terms of net $ or % the business value to the company.

9- Request replacement(s).

8- Initiate the job, AND Start the planning AT the same time.

7- Request management to document their down-sizing request to show before AND after estimates, and why they feel their estimates should be considered better.

6- Advise Management that vague terms lead to misinterpretation, additional costs, extra labor, schedule delays, inadequate product, etc.

5- Advise Management that by not raising issues can lead to misinterpretation, additional costs, extra labor, schedule delays, inadequate product, etc.

4- Inform the Functional Manager of the quantity, and the caliber of the team required, and why.

3- Ask the customer what they would like to see in order to get it in writing.

2- Eliminate the misunderstandings by meeting the expectations.

1- Don’t worry about things outside of your control, and do your job, for which you were hired.

What top 10 do you think I left out, why, and what would be the solution for the failure?

3 Comments leave one →
  1. June 23, 2010 5:08 am

    Nice list! I’d add to the failing:

    – Hard to schedule meetings about the project because the “right people” are too busy or other projects force changes.
    – Managers or team members don’t talk about the problem everyone knows is there.
    – People two levels up or higher in authority are regularly directing detailed aspects of the work.
    – The next work to be done is not obviously known and visible to everyone; managers, team members and customer.
    – There’s no time to stop, analyze and improve the work, only time to do the work.
    – If at anytime someone says “Ship it anyway” or “We’ll fix that later.”

    I also have some comment about your solutions.

    9, 6, 5 and 4 look to be simply making problems known by informing the people who need to know. That feels good but if the people who need to know do nothing, then what? Just keep saying it? What tool do you suggest for pushing to removal of the problem?

    2 also concerns me. The customer is always right. And usually the customer just doesn’t know what they are asking, sometimes because the solution has not been invented yet. Sometimes the team cannot meet the expectation. I think it would be better to communicate early and often (at least daily and constantly is better), being transparent about requests, estimates and status, such that customer expectations meet the reality of the possible.

    • June 23, 2010 12:27 pm

      I think your 1st one is right on target! I can’t begin to tell how often that is happening lately. It’s probably due to the downsizing, and the multiple hats folks have to wear now-a-days.

      My solutions were not intended to be the “all encompasing” solution, but merely the 1st step of the solution. Based on the response, then you have a series of options in which to incorporate next. Every issue will have to be addressed differently.

      I love your transparency comments on #2 as well. Just wish it was that easy in the “real world.” Too many times, unfortunately, it has the feeling of us vs. them, which I’m not a big fan of. Thanks again for your comments!


  1. How to Tell your Project is Doing Well « Aidan Foley – Improvement Strategist / Solution Provider

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