Have you ever known or been part of a development project that missed deadlines and performance goals?
If you have seen this multiple times, did you notice any patterns or similarities in the projects?
Unfortunately, I have been involved with a few projects that fall into the category of “out-of-control”. In hindsight, the warning signs are plainly visible. They were not so clear when in the middle of the chaos and there was no body present to alert the team to the peril the project was in. Today I will give you 3 warning signs that your project is out-of-control.
1. Frequent Schedule Slips
The most obvious clue that a project is in trouble is the frequent delays in schedule. The team or team leader always has a good reason for these slips. The causes of theses missed deadlines sound “reasonable” and therefore are difficult to refute. However, a miss is a miss and will jeopardize the whole business case for project if allowed to continue unabated.
2. The Project Leader Isolates His Team
As the schedule slips continue, their cumulative effect puts the team and their manager under increasing pressure. A frequent tactic used by the manager is to sequester or isolate the team so they can focus on the problems. This is a reasonable approach. However, if the isolation is taken to the extreme, the team stops communicating with anyone outside the team and a downward spiral begins.
“We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.”
– Albert Einstein
The isolation prevents outside influences and knowledge from flowing into the project. Using the logical outcome from Mr. Einstein’s quote, the project that is off-track and isolated will never complete the project.
3. Project Reporting Contains Fewer Details
As the project continues to unravel with more frequent slips and increasing isolation, the reporting to the outside world becomes less frequent and with fewer details. Here are a few reasons for this:
If this pattern starts, the only remedy is for the team leader, or someone above her, to call for frequent/daily status updates. These should be 15 minutes in length, or less and give the team the opportunity to request assistance and to report on success.
The death spiral of a failing project can be stopped. It requires someone who can accurately assess the situation and provide the guidance and the clout needed to enable change. I challenge you today to look at your own projects objectively and decide what level of control they are under.