Project Killers are waiting to pounce on every project – from inception to transition. In this series we are looking at the most common assassins and exploring the ways to preserve the health and well-being of your projects. The most heinous killers are:
- Dead on Arrival (a.k.a. DOA) – A project without the proper estimations for time and resources somehow is initiated. (The Path to On Time, On Budget and In Scope : http://blog.evergegroup.com/?p=1385)
- Death by Documentation (a.k.a. Strangled in Red Tape) – A great deal of time and effort goes into plans, requirement documents, and design documents with no real benefit to the project. (Project Killers: An Ode to Death by Documentation: http://blog.evergegroup.com/?p=1389)
- Death by Indecision (a.k.a. Analysis Paralysis in its milder forms) – Key project decisions are delayed or avoided altogether. (Project Killers – PSI – Project Scene Investigation “A Case of Slow Death” http://blog.evergegroup.com/?p=1400)
- Death in Unchartered Lands (a.k.a. Scope Creep) – The participants, stakeholders, scope, and methods, are never agreed to formally when the project starts. If you don’t know where you’re going, most any road will take you there – but it may take a lot longer and cost a lot more!
- Sudden Unplanned Death (a.k.a. Running into a dead end) – risks are not properly identified and mitigated
- Death by Starvation (a.k.a. Bottlenecks) – resources are not properly identified and allocated.
We have already dealt with DOA, Strangulation by Red Tape, and Analysis Paralysis in previous blogs. This blog deals with Scope Creep, enemy number One and the most hated project killer of all time.
Imagine that you make your living by looking for and recovering treasure. It shouldn’t take much imagination, because that is exactly what you are doing as a project manager, but let’s carry out the analogy to show the congruence. First, as a professional you wouldn’t chase a treasure that was known to be too small or too costly to obtain. Second, you would have a ‘map’, literal or figurative, that has a definitive ‘X’ that marks the spot where the treasure can be found. Third, you would obtain the permissions and licenses needed to hunt for the treasure. Fourth you gather your investors to fund the trip. Fifth, you would assemble your treasure hunting team. Sixth, you would plan your treasure hunting trip. Finally, you would hunt for and recover the treasure.
It is easy to see the analogy, an IT project is a lot like a treasure hunt. You initiate the project to benefit (the treasure) your organization. You have an estimate and a statement of work (the map). You license the software. You identify the business stakeholders and obtain the funding. You put together the project team. You write up a plan to obtain your objectives. Finally, you carry out the project and obtain the desired result. Or do you??
Do you instead ‘get greedy’? A new map has been found, lying close to your original treasure is another one. It is temptingly close by and by extending your trip, and pushing your resources to the limit, that treasure can be had! X no longer marks the spot. Your careful plans and preparation are no longer going to assure you of finding the treasure you seek, because you now seek more than you had originally planned to. You have literally released the ‘bird in your hand’ to seek ‘two in the bush’.
When this happens to your IT project, when you reach out for that nearby benefit, you have exposed the heart of your project to the most deadly and feared project killer, Scope Creep. Yes, there may be more benefit to be had, and yes, it may be reachable by running the project longer and pushing the team to the limits. However, you must realize your carefully created plans and preparation are no longer going to assure you of a successful project. Prior to giving up on your original ‘treasure’ in favor of a new, expanded one, you should think of the professional treasure hunters. What would they do?
The truly successful, professional treasure hunters stay focused on the prize to the exclusion of all potential distractions, they also draw up a charter and make every member of the team commit to that charter, and finally they set up the reward system for the team members in such a way that they are only rewarded for the treasure they are chartered to find. Do the same for your projects and you will find that X indeed marks the spot much more often than not!
This blog was written by Jim Lindenfeld, who has been actively involved in customer relationship management during his entire professional career. He is a certified sales and sales management trainer. He has been involved in the implementation of CRM systems since 1987 and is currently a principal consultant in our CRM practice.
Illustration created and provided by Jonathan Pike, eVerge Group IT Specialist.