22 July 2009

Helping a Project That is Dealing With a Very Broad Range of Issues

In a recent post I outlined eight signs that are leading indicators for a project that can be expected not to reach its goals and targets in a timely manner. Many of you have requested more details on the individual issues. In this post, the focus lies on how to deal with a project team that is dealing with a very broad range of issues.

Why is this a problem? In my experience, projects that are not dealing with a relatively narrow range of issues have great difficulties in keeping focused and have problems in knowing precisely which activities are required for reaching the agreed goals. In addition, they tend to spend a very large amount of time communicating with potential stake-holders. The main consequence of this is that it is almost guaranteed that these projects will not be able to keep to the agreed timelines and meet key deadlines. In addition, due to the broad range of issues, they will have great difficulties in developing crisp and concrete conclusions and recommendations, thereby not delivering value related to any of the issues the project set out to deal with.

My recommendation to clients is to start every project with a crisp and focused set of objectives. If you have different, but related, issues, you should strongly consider setting up specific projects to deal with each issue (either in parallel of sequentially). If the problem itself is difficult to structure, consider setting up a phased approach where the goal of the first phase is to develop a better understanding of the situation, to suggest the possible ways that the issues can be dealt with, and to give advice on how a project should optimally be set up.

What can you do if you believe that you have a project in your portfolio that is dealing with too broad a range of issues? My recommendation is to sit down with the project team and go back to the starting point for the project. Key questions that need to be answered include a) what has changed in the business environment that the project needs to develop a response to, b) what are the key issues that the project needs to deal with, and c) how well do we understand these issues?

Based on the answers to these questions, I have helped many teams to develop an overall goal and a set of concrete deliverables for the project. The goals that we have agreed have been measurable and the deliverables have represented something that clearly did not exist earlier (a marketing plan, a new process, etc). The concrete goal and agreed deliverables have then been used as a starting point for analyzing the activities being carried out by the project team. Any activities that are not absolutely required for meeting the concrete goal should be stopped immediately. If they are important for reaching other goals, they should be given to a separate team. Based on the new set of activities, a new and realistic plan has been agreed with the team, and the team has set to work again with a renewed focus and increased energy. Typically, the process of getting the team focused has taken two or three meetings in a course of a week.
Follow the links if you are interested in more information on project planning or project management training.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.