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All the recent talk about the Titanic got me thinking about the similarities of being involved in projects that we know have hit the metaphoric “iceberg” and are now slowly sinking and falling apart around you. What signs could we have looked for to help ensure the success of the project, rather than everyone going down with it?

Here are five signs that your project is about to fail.

1: Timing

Timing on a project can be a delicate thing.  The Project Manager jockey’s slack and other project variables to keep the completion date fixed.

Consider timing to be an issue when factoring in the scarcity of resources.  Resources will always be your biggest obstacle so, what they’re working on is of critical importance to you.

A Project Manager’s friend is the scope change.  If the resources aren’t available, or the scope has changed then bring it up in the next client update and move the completion date to accommodate the change.

2: Scale

The project is monolithic. The adage “How do you eat an elephant? “comes to mind. When you engage in a large project, it should be broken down into manageable pieces. Each objective and milestone must be well defined and achievable. Otherwise, you may find yourself going back to the drawing board over and over again to “get it right” which will impact the timing (see one above) and is a sure sign the project is not going in the right direction.

A large project that is not well defined can be very challenging to schedule using the Waterfall method.  Perhaps using an Agile method may fit the requirements better.

If you’re going to use Waterfall, then spend the time up front to define, document, meet and agree on the scope and schedule.

3: Support

Buy-in from all the stakeholders that the project will impact. Lack of support from management, department heads or from within the project team itself is vital. If any of these are going in different directions, failure is in the air.

Manage support through Communication, our next point.  Regularly scheduled meetings with a fixed agenda that reveals all is critical to your project’s success.

manage projects like a pro4: Communication

Communication must be clear, concise and coordinated to ensure the success of the project. I use a “weekly traction meeting” to keep communication “in”.  When communication goes “out”, it’s difficult to maintain support.  A weekly traction meeting is simply a status update with a fixed agenda, every week at the same time.  Invite all the stakeholders and send out the meeting minutes.

I believe the status update is critical to a project and a Project Manager’s success.
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