Sunday, February 12, 2012

Knowing When to Kill a Project

This is a hard topic because every project starts as an idea and someone with that idea had the passion to get the ball rolling in the first place.  Project management tools help us to see which projects are at the bottom of the bucket.  The tools typically are a ranking system and also allowing us to see what was the original baseline of the project and where we are today.  In some cases projects are killed due to the market place; there is no reason to keep developing something that no one is going to buy.

The last thing we want to do is to toss the project out with the bath water, but in some cases you have to, because it may be destroying your whole organization.

I’ve seen this before and it is sad sad thing.  A project that is deemed a must have to keep future clients at the organization because competitors already have a solution in place.  The project had no timeline and no tracking of what was spent (I know you are thinking, well it isn’t a real project then, right?), it was the Cadillac of all solutions with everything you could want.  As the months turn into years the clients give an ultimatum, do it or I walk.  So a side project is started to come up with the quick fix with a short timeline.  The quick fix works and the client is happy so the original project (Cadillac) keeps chugging on for future clients.

Two more years pass.  The original project with no timeline and no tracking of what was spent is still ongoing.  The plan now at year four is to reduce scope.  In the meantime business has dried up as their clients go elsewhere.  The organization slides further and further into the red, but the project keeps moving on, still with no timeline and no budget.

This is pretty sad, because they used no tools to show them what reality is and the end result could be some pretty drastic measures to help them get out of the red.  The real question is will they kill the project?

Don’t let this happen to your projects or your organization!  Have a plan and stick to it.  Have a schedule to review all ongoing projects and keep your resources on the right projects and have some serious discussions about the ones that need to be killed.  It is hard to kill someone’s pet project, but when that pet is literally killing your organization you need to let it go.

Lesson Learned:
Have a plan and stick to it ...


  1. yeabut...

    If you are told, "Hey Ryan, I need you to work this quick project. No time for all the formalities, it's just a quick fix to keep our prime customer happy. Make it so."

    How do you stick to your plan if you aren't even allowed to create one? How do you convince management (who do not understand the nuances of PM) that they should invest that critical 20%?

  2. I still do all the formalities because the folks on my project teams expect me to do it and they know it helps them and it works.

    The project that I linked to above I took on with one requirement. My way or I won't do it.

    One of the best way you can get management buy in is to get your project teams to start a buzz about the tools you use to manage your projects. I'm currently do this at my current job. The word gets out and management want you to introduce and train others on the tool. Your project teams can be your biggest fans or your worst enemy. Use them to help make your point.


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