* In the context of this blog post, when I say project I don’t just mean large-scope projects, but the smaller ones you may do as part of your day-to-day job.
In all of my readings and training in project management, one theme is clear: in order to complete a successful project, you have to do the planning part really well. You may develop your own or use established templates to help with your planning and execution. You’ve built a Gantt chart. You have your list of people to consult and collaborate with. You have what you think will be a reasonable timeframe.
But then…unexpected things keep coming up. Another little project takes your attention away, consulting seems to be taking a really long time, and nobody’s reading that Gantt chart much less sticking to the timeframes. Before you know it, the deadline has come, you don’t have what you expected and you think:
“maybe this wasn’t a good idea after all…”
In the reality of working life, the above scenario does happen (hopefully not too often though), even to the best and brightest of us. I would say particularly when you are working with a large group of people, in a complex organisation, or needing to create anything that requires IT (should note here that I've worked with great IT people; it's the systems that are complex). Should you just brush it aside and hope no one notices that you don’t deliver what you said you would? What can you do when a project fails? Here are my top three tips:
1. Conduct a critical review / audit of the project—if you have done your planning right you should have criteria (in the form of your project timeline, deliverables and quality controls) with which to conduct your review. If you can, get someone independent to help you. Determine what the turning point was for your project; when did it really start to fail, and why? Document what you've learned.
2. What good things can you take from your project? For example, did the consultation part go well? Were you really happy with the software you meant to implement?
3. Now see what you can salvage from your project. Build on what you were happy with and use what you learned from what went wrong to re-plan and try again. For example, if you were happy with the software, but the issue was consensus from your working party on a few things, determine what the top two options are, and give those to the working party. Narrow down your scope a bit if you need to. Tighten the deadlines. Most importantly, ensure that you learn from the mistakes and have a plan for how not to re-create them.
The most important lesson is not to give up. It can be hard when a project is dragging on or agreements can’t be reached, but that’s where you need to have a solid project plan and vision of the result.
Oh, and always document everything. You should (at the least) document all changes, scope-creep, and things that have gone wrong.
Thanks for reading,
The Quality Nerd loves all things Quality Management and Internal Audit...too much is never enough!