What your project teams aren’t telling you: the effort is doomed!

by Erin McCune on May 23, 2007

in Project Management


Most projects are train wrecks waiting to happen.

A recent survey of 40 companies (most Fortune 500) and 2000+ projects revealed that 82% of employees say there are significant organization-wide initiatives underway in their workplace that will likely fail; 78% say they are personally working on a "doomed" project right now.

77% of employees described current projects as slow-motion train wrecks

90% of respondents knew in the first half of the project that it was likely to fail

More than 81% say a key decision maker could have saved the project; but
say approaching the key decision maker was nearly impossible

What can you do to prevent YOUR strategic initiative from becoming a career-killing train wreck? Start by asking yourself these questions from the Silence Fails assessment:

  1. Are the time lines, budgets, materials, and personnel established for this initiative realistic–given the deliverable required?
  2. Is your sponsor providing the kind of active involvement and support this initiative needs to be successful (e.g., convincing reluctant stakeholders, supporting you in policy meetings, working behind the scenes to keep the initiative on track)?
  3. Are the right stakeholders supporting the priority setting process with this initiative? (e.g., not exerting inappropriate influence; bypassing channels to change the scope, schedule, or resources; pulling rank to get their way; or cutting deals on the side in a way that threatens the initiative)?
  4. Are people giving you honest, accurate, and timely information regarding the status of your initiative, allowing you to get a clear view of where it stands?
  5. Are team members performing up to your expectations and keeping commitments, and are they sufficiently competent to see the initiative through to the end?

If you answered "No" to even one of these questions, your initiative may be a train wreck waiting to happen. It is time to take stock, reflect, and identify the obstacles between you and a successful outcome for your key initiative. Then you need to have  an honest conversation with your project sponsor and other key decision makers to get the project back on track. Before you do so, be sure to practice with a trusted colleague or friend, provide constructive criticism of policies and people (including the sponsor), and – most importantly – offer proactive solutions.   

To learn more about these "Crucial Conversations" download the full Silence Fails research report:

Silence Fails: The Five Crucial Conversations for Flawless Execution
by VitalSmarts and The Concours Group

In addition, the recent ForteBlog series of posts on Project Management features advice and specific suggestions for overcoming the 10 most common project challenges.

You can find the series index here.


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