Project Management

by Alan Harpham, Tony Kippenberger, Graham Bosman

Problems along the way

Here are some questions that will help you track down what might be the cause of a project going wrong. These are the important questions to start asking, together with some suggestions for useful approaches.

The team isn’t working together

  • Is there a prima donna in the team spoiling its team work? If so, should I remove them from the team?
  • Is someone being purposefully disruptive?
  • Have I tried to build the team and teamwork?
  • Did something go wrong?

    Being a project manager is easy. Being an effective one, however, is very difficult.

    Ralph L Kleim and Irwin S Ludin, The People Side of Project Management
  • Would an outside facilitator help me re-build the team?
  • Would a (another) team building event help?
  • Is it something I am doing?
  • Do I have a favourite(s)?
  • Is the team lacking some key team role member?
  • Is the team lacking some essential knowledge or skill?
  • Is it lacking leadership?
  • Am I the problem?
  • Do I need to re-emphasise the importance of the project’s outputs and eventual outcomes?
  • Can we celebrate something? A party or other activity?

Nobody is giving the project priority

  • Is it a low priority project anyway within the organisation?
  • Do they recognise it will be late, due to the low way it is prioroitised?
  • Does the board set project priority? Have they got it right?
  • Have I failed to communicate its importance?
  • Has it got the right sponsor (sufficiently influential?)
  • Is the support provided by the sponsor visible?
  • Has it got the right project manager (sufficiently influential?)
  • Does the organisation have the right capacity?
  • Does the organisation have too many projects for its capacity?
  • Can I bring in external resources?
  • Whose permission do I need?
  • Are they available?
  • Are they more expensive?

Time is passing but there’s little progress – what can I do?

  • Call a project team meeting to discuss progress or lack of it?
  • Identify the reasons why?
  • Can we manage the problems or do they require resolution by senior management?
  • Is it a resource issue?
  • Is it an information (or lack of information) issue?
  • Is it an authority issue – my own authority or my given authority?
  • Do team members need help to set their personal priorities?
  • Is someone, somewhere, obstructing progress intentionally?

It’s not going to do the job!

  • Are we sure?
  • Inform the project sponsor and agree action to take – can we modify the project?
  • Stop project?
  • Abandon project?
  • Develop new solution?
  • Get the user to help develop a new solution that will work

People are resisting it

This is a stakeholder management issue.

  • Which stakeholder(s) precisely?
  • Can they be persuaded?
  • Can they be circumnavigated?
  • Can their issue be dealt with? How?
  • Refer to your communication plan – how can you gain their support?

How do I keep it in budget?

  • Make the right decisions about expenditure as early as possible.
  • Don’t commit expenditure earlier than necessary – just in time.
  • Keep an eye on high value expenditure.
  • Watch for future commitments, not just cash flow.

I need more money or resources

  • Is there a contingency?
  • Who holds it?
  • What is my justification for its release?
  • Does it affect the business case?
  • Do I need to ask for more from the project board?
  • Are external resources available?
  • Whose authority is needed to get them?
  • What is my justification for needing more resources at this stage?

I need more time

  • What is the impact on the business case of any overrun?
  • Can the business case take it?
  • Can I do some more activities in parallel?

I need more support from the sponsor

  • Be sure that you know what support is missing!
  • Is there any other source of such support?
  • Approach sponsor?
  • Maybe you could speak to your sponsor’s boss – but take great care how he approaches your sponsor!

I need a back-up plan for this!

You should already have one from your risk planning, and for each risk there should be a mitigation strategy:

  • How can you minimise the risk occurring?
  • How can you minimise the impact when the risk becomes an issue?