In my last post I asserted that failed projects often have at their roots “neglect or damage in [the leaders’] personal and professional lives”, not ignorance of project management principles. Rather than let that question begging stand, we should look at that claim. If the claim is true, then shouldn’t we find evidence in problem projects of “good thought, bad action?” Bad projects don’t just happen, we make them happen.
Indeed we do. At Crossderry Blog I’ve blogged about project failure and success many times, including the work we did at SAP on project escalations. The most glaring examples are around stakeholder and communications management.
While these stakeholder and communications management techniques appear simple, we’ve found that many project managers can’t muster the motivation or confidence to execute against them consistently. These “symptoms” are great non-obvious indicators for project health:
- Projects that consistently linked stakeholder analysis, communications planning, and plan execution stayed out of trouble.
- Project managers who did not fit into, or could not adapt to, customer cultures, mission-critical projects, etc. were reluctant to escalate projects quickly enough.
- The most frequent communications mistake was failure to execute planned executive-level messaging, which eroded the project manager’s position in the eyes of sponsors and other leaders.
These stakeholder management findings correspond with recent external studies noting that communication breakdowns – especially “keeping quiet” about known risks or issues – are a primary driver of project failures. To my main point, isn’t “keeping quiet” about project-threatening issues and risks a sign that there’s something amiss with one’s mind, body, spirit, or professional life? More soon…