Three Project Pitfalls to Avoid

Many project failure studies reflect up to a 50% failure rate on a typical project.

IT projects tend to rank a little worse with some studies showing as high as a 60% failure rate.

I will never forget one of my first experiences with an IT implementation of a plant floor system. One application was a plant scheduling board.  After a month of programming, version 1 was ready for rollout. The application was impressive from a purely aesthetic impact with the old color card system that it was replacing well represented by the digital colored block placeholders mimicked on a large screen.  Just one problem, while the board was good at arranging alphabetically, the system could not sort by delivery dates which are pretty important for a scheduling system. Needless to say the plant personnel were not amused by this oversight and it certainly created confidence issues throughout the remainder of the project.

So how do we minimize these types of errors that can ultimately lead to the demise of the entire project?

Plan the work, work the plan.  While one can come up with many overused clichés for planning, the truth is planning is the longest checklist and holds the most ability to get off course. Sometimes it is tempting to discount some of the planning activities but more often than not you will regret it.

Gemba (the real place) Ok it is time to get real, stealing a page from the lean playbook. Much has been said about the importance of IT understanding the customers’ process and that cannot be overstated. However, try this for a twist, maybe the people in the process could get in the IT gemba.  I once had a programmer ask me to look over his shoulder as he would approach critical requirements in the process. I learned more about his process and he met my expectations because he received real time feedback. Win/Win. This fits nicely with the fail fast philosophy.

Communication OK here is an oldie but a goodie. A survey on failed projects showed that 70% of respondents had been involved in a project they knew would fail right from the start. Ouch!!!  As my kids say, “there are so many things wrong with that statement.” However we look at that number whether we think it might be “piling on” or “hindsight is 20/20”, guess who ultimately will be held responsible for communication…the project manager. So how do we avoid this dilemma? One ground rule that I think is pretty important in the kickoff meeting is “No silent disbelief.” Which simply means if you have a concern about the project please don’t talk about it at the water cooler; let’s hash it out in our first meeting and address the concern early. A much broader and deeper root cause of this issue could be cultural, which can be a much more challenging condition.

Finally, A good friend of mine says if you are going to screw up, find a new way to do it and don’t repeat the same mistakes. So hopefully this will keep you out of trouble on these three scenarios and you can create a new one which will give me more material in the process.

Source : Dr Dobbs Journal

About the Author
David Russell

Director – Client Solutions