Project Failure Modes

05.03.12 | 2 Comments

Know your destination or you likely won't arrive there.

One of the great things about doing consulting work is the ability to see a perspective outside the boundaries of a single company. That means trends and failure modes can be spotted and used. This is a well known failure mode, but I’ve been reminded of it recently in some of the engagements I’ve been working.

If you don’t have a clear, tangible, communicated, and agreed-upon destination, you are unlikely to arrive where expect. If we keep with the travel analogy, would you ever consider taking a business trip without knowing where you arrive? (Travel for pleasure is a different deal, sometimes travel for pleasure is moving about with no clear destination ;-))

Yet with projects, large important, high visibility and high impact projects, it seems that this task is one of the most difficult to complete. Sometimes because there is not agreement on the destination. Sometimes because the general zip code of the destination is known, but there is not yet enough information to specify the arrival address. There are many other reasons too.

So how can you avoid this pitfall?

So, if you are running a project great or small, take a moment and ask yourself:

  • Do I know what the destination is?
  • Can I clearly communicate that to others who care about the result?
  • Have I clearly (and repeatedly) communicated the destination to others?
  • Do those other people agree with the destination? (If not, must they agree?)
  • And do..

  • Periodically evaluate that the journey you are taking will actually end up at the destination.
  • Provide proactive status updates about where you are and when you expect to arrive.

This is a simple list with simple questions and tasks, but they really do form the foundation for success in any project. Good luck with your project!