Unexpectedly Intriguing!
February 27, 2007

When it comes to identifying projects in trouble, the key warning signs of personnel turnover, sponsor turnover and funding uncertainty are really late signals that confirm that the project is going off track. By and large, these things only happen after real problems have begun to entrench themselves.

So what causes a project to go off track?

ESI International's Jim Foreman lists the following:

  1. Drifting away from standards.
  2. Frequent change of direction by management.
  3. Inability to determine current status.

More than anything else, these things indicate that the project is moving toward an "out-of-control" condition in the quality sense. Left unchecked, these things will result in a series of building issues with the project's stakeholders (team members, sponsors, and customers), that will ultimately destabilize the project and compromise its potential for success.

After a point, the project's stakeholders will simply vote with their feet and dollars and go elsewhere (the key warning signs that confirm the project is in trouble.)

It falls to the project manager to stay on top of developing issues during the course of the project. While it's not uncommon for there to be variance from a perfectly-controlled situation, the problems that can doom a project are best avoided before they reach an out-of-control condition.

In a nutshell, that's the real job of the project manager!

More information: The Long Island chapter of the Project Management Institute has incorporated portions of Jim Foreman's comments on identifying and dealing with problems in projects in their January 2007 minutes.

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