A client recently asked us to review a project that had gone off the rails, where overspend had exceeded 25%. It’s easy with hindsight to pinpoint where it all started to go wrong. In this case, inadequate project controls were to blame:
- Poorly defined project roles
- Key roles missing from the team
- Rushed decision making without any gate reviews
- Weak subject matter knowledge
- Failure to identify key inter-dependencies
But how do we avoid getting into these situations in the first place? Our advice is to take some time out, away from the everyday busy-ness of a project, to run a thought experiment. Ask yourself, and the team:
- What’s the worst that could happen? What could failure look like in three, six, twelve months time?
- What would an auditor look for if they were picking over the bones of your deceased project?
- What are you doing to mitigate those doomsday scenarios?
- Have you adequately defined project roles, project success criteria, the vision for what ‘good enough’ / ‘done’ / Minimum viable product is?
- Are you logging risks and issues, regularly reviewing them, and assigning clear ownership for mitigation and resolution?
You should be running this thought exercise at least once per month, and it’ll only take you an hour. It will save you significant sums of money, and avert other undesirable consequences such as reputational damage.
We’d love to hear your tips on avoiding the pitfalls.