Unexpectedly Intriguing!
February 26, 2007

We do a pretty fair share of project management here at Political Calculations, which comes part and parcel with our focus upon developing unique tools that help people answer questions of interest in their lives. We define and control the scope of our projects, create timelines, priortize tasks, allocate resources, work to meet deadlines and we do it all in reasonable amount of time and all on a shoestring budget!

So when we recently had the opportunity to hear an expert on identifying the warning signs that a project may be in trouble, we were intrigued. Jim Foreman is a Vice President of Client Solutions for project management training developer and consulting powerhouse ESI International, who has been traveling the country speaking to various quality and project management-oriented groups on the topic of "Troubled Projects - Identifying Early Warning Signs and Providing Project First Aid."

Here are the key warning signs Jim Foreman identifies as being clear indications that a project is in trouble:

  1. Personnel turnover.
  2. Sponsorship turnover.
  3. Funding uncertainty.

The list is unsurprising in that the balance of these three factors pretty much defines every business or project in existence. You have the people who work on projects (personnel), the people who lead or organize them (sponsors), and the people who fund them ("bankers").

What each of these warning signs indicate is that trouble has already developed that is affecting whether or not the key people involved want to continue pursuing it. For example, when personnel opt to leave a project for other assignments or opportunities, they're really indicating by voting with their feet that they have greater confidence that their contributions go to better effect elsewhere.

Likewise, if you have turnover in the projects sponsors or leaders, that indicates that the people in these positions have made a determination that other efforts are more worthy their time. This is particularly true if turnover in leadership is frequent.

What ultimately kills a project however is when its "bankers" substantially increase the contigencies upon which continued funding is provided beyond what was originally defined at the beginning of the project. More than anything else, this creates uncertainty in the future of the project, which in turn affects the decisions of both personnel and project managers. Left unchecked, this creates a "death spiral" for the project.

More information: The Long Island chapter of the Project Management Institute has incorporated portions of Jim Foreman's lecture in their January 2007 minutes.


About Political Calculations

Welcome to the blogosphere's toolchest! Here, unlike other blogs dedicated to analyzing current events, we create easy-to-use, simple tools to do the math related to them so you can get in on the action too! If you would like to learn more about these tools, or if you would like to contribute ideas to develop for this blog, please e-mail us at:

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