Do you believe your project will fail?

There is so much in the news around project failure that sometimes it feels as if all projects are in danger from the start.
A study from software development firm Geneca supports this view – unfortunately. I say ‘unfortunately’ because it’s a commonly held belief that all projects fail and I think that if you set out believing that, you will have less chance of achieving your goals than if you set out on your project journey believing that you can do it.
The executives interviewed by Geneca don’t share my optimism. Three quarters of them feel that their projects are always or usually “doomed right from the start.” There is a distinct lack of confidence in project success.

Why do people believe in failure?
So why do teams continue to struggle, both in actually making projects a success and in getting others to believe that they could be, given the right resources.
The survey highlights several areas which contribute to the perception of inevitable project failure:

Unclear objectives. 45% reported that the business objectives for their project were unclear. If you don’t know what it is you are supposed to be doing then it’s pretty hard to decide if you’ve been a success.
Lack of clarity around ‘done’. Over three quarters of people said that there was confusion about when a project was done. Without defining success criteria and a list of criteria that mark the end of a project, how can you decide if it has successfully been completed? Only 23% reported that there was always agreement about when to close a project.
Poor business involvement. Inconsistent or confusing business involvement means that 78% of respondents reported that the project’s objectives usually or always didn’t reflect business needs. There was general agreement that business stakeholders need to be adequately involved in requirements elicitation and management.
“Unfortunately, poor requirements definition practices have become so common that they’re almost tolerated,” said Geneca President & CEO, Joel Basgall. And that’s despite the known correlation between good requirements practices and project success.

How to put that right
The key, according to a Gartner study into project failure, is not to be complacent. The experts there recommend that project managers take steps to apply situational knowledge to the project. That means applying the right mix of processes, team members, and skills to the project for the best result, and that can include business people to help define requirements.
That could be anything from making sure the right people are in the room when you come to define requirements, to more workshops, to seconding someone from the relevant team to be the eyes and ears of the business users on the project.
Another tip is to get a professional business analyst on the team. If you are working on a project where the requirements are even the slightest bit unclear and you feel that you are losing the ability to document and manage them, a business analyst will put you right. Leave it to them to get to the bottom of what the users are really talking about and to help both the project team and the business stakeholders understand the impact of the project across all areas.
One of the big easy wins from the Gartner study is the fact that better communication could really help in lots of cases. When projects fail because they don’t deliver something of business value or they deliver too late to be useful, these problems could have been overcome with better communication between the stakeholder groups and the project team.
Finally, be more positive. Mike Nichols challenges people to change the mentality around project failure by focusing on getting things right at the beginning. Project management isn’t rocket science. There are stacks of studies telling us why projects fail, and mostly the reasons are avoidable. Being more positive, changing the mindset of the doubters and doing things properly during project initiation can go a long way to managing project performance towards success rather than failure.

How to Better Manage Problem Team Members

Wouldn’t it be nice if everyone on your team were professional, respectful of others, dedicated to doing the best job possible and responsible with their time tracking? That’s probably asking too much, but there are ways you can deal with problem team members. There’s no reason that your entire team should suffer just because of one bad apple. What should you know?
Deal with Them, Now
Depending on the severity of the problem, you might be tempted to let things right. This is the wrong approach. You might think it’s part of adjusting to a new team environment, or perhaps that whatever the issue is, it will go away with time. The problem here is that by not dealing with the behavior immediately, you’re giving tacit approval – you’re telling them it’s fine to act that way, and that creates huge issues down the road. Whatever the problem is, deal with it now before it grows.
Speak in Private
One of the fastest ways to create a sense of resentment and anger in your team is to confront behavior or work issues in a public forum. No matter how “small” the issue might be, raising it in front of other people is never a good thing. Take the offending team member aside to a private location (while observing all the rules regarding open doors for propriety and safety), and discuss it with them there.
Use a Gentle Hand, at Least at First
The first time or two that you have to confront a team member about a problem attitude or behavior, use a gentle hand. That doesn’t mean you have to baby them, but you shouldn’t necessarily “lay into” them, either. The behavior might be nothing more than the result of confusion and misunderstanding on their part. By dealing with it in an amicable way, you are able to start sorting the issue out without immediately angering the team member or making them feel bad. In fact, the team member might just need a little instruction or training in how to behave or in the proper procedures to use.
Repeat Offenders
While the first offense or two should be handled delicately (or at least politely), repeated offenses are a different matter. If the team member continues with the problem behavior even after repeated warnings, it’s time to take things a bit farther. A stern warning and a reprimand of some sort (a verbal warning that goes on their employment record, etc.) will be necessary. You should also inform the team member that the next instance would result in something more drastic, and lay out the possible consequences (including being removed from the team).
While it’s hoped that you won’t have to deal with problem team members at all, there’s always the chance that one of your team will have issues. Whether it’s in behavior towards another team member, laxness in recording time, failure to document correctly or something else, handling the situation the right way from the start is essential.

Is Documenting and Reporting Really That Necessary within Your Project?

As a project manager, you have plenty of things on your plate. You have to ensure that your team is communicating and making progress forward. You have to communicate with stakeholders and managers. You have to continually inspect and revamp your project plan to account for new variables that threaten to derail it. With the sheer number of other tasks that need to be done, it can be easy to dismiss things like documentation and reporting as nonessential, pushing them to the back burner. Don’t do it. How important are these things?
Your team will generate a considerable amount of data throughout the project. It might be related to material prices and performance in product manufacture. It might be related to specific hard drive stability and longevity within an IT project. In reality, that information will most certainly be vast and varied, and in all cases important. You must ensure that you’re documenting that data properly, and recording it against future need.
Perhaps the best tip possible related to documentation within your project is to ensure that each of your team members understands the importance of recording data and reporting it correctly. Make sure they have the software and templates necessary to streamline these processes. For instance, Excel and Word templates allow your team members to simply plug data into preformatted slots, taking a considerable amount of time and effort out of the scenario and ensuring that they can get back to their regular responsibilities that much faster.
Once your team members have recorded all the necessary data, it needs to make its way to you (in most instances). You will have your own responsibilities where this information is concerned. For instance, you’ll have to report some information to stakeholders, whether they’re in your organization or in a client company. It’s vital that you report this information for a variety of reasons, including the possibility that this data will have a direct impact on your project’s budget. For instance, changes in the price of materials needed for manufacturing a product will most certainly have a huge impact on your project’s budget, whether for good or ill. Information about the availability of a material from a specific supplier can also impact your project, both in terms of budget and in completion time.
Have Documenting and Reporting Tools Already on Hand
For project managers in need of additional help with documenting and reporting, the most important thing to understand is that there are tools out there that can streamline this process. You’re not limited to premade templates alone. You can work with mobile apps that offer the ability to immediately send raw data or full reports with the press of a button to anyone who needs to be kept in the loop. That certainly saves time and effort. From desktop software to mobile apps, there are timesaving tools that will help you be more productive, while still ensuring accuracy and communicability.