How to save a failing project

Projects fail because some people don’t ask the critical questions and other people don’t know the answer.

Imagine you just got assigned a failing project and don’t know where to start.

Here are some questions (in no particular order) to ask yourself now AND (most importantly) as you move along the project.

What’s the objective?

When is it for?

Who will this project benefit? (another way of saying CLIENT)

Is everybody involved clear on the benefit it will bring and when?

What are the key things we must produce in order to call the project a success? Who is in charge of executing them?

What does “acceptable” mean for each deliverable? Who defined it? Is everybody clear on that?

What’s the next important date?

Any compliance dates that we’re about to miss?

Who does what? Do they all know they must do it? Do they know how to do it? Are they on board?

Who will make the final decision on key things when things get stuck? Are you sure nobody will torpedo that decision after it’s made?

If we stopped the project now, what would happen? Who would be affected? Would anyone care? In other words, are we sure this project is still relevant?

Many of these questions are hard to answer. Hard in the sense that they’re difficult to ask when they’re most critical and hard in the sense that many times nobody thinks it’s their job to know the answer. That’s why projects fail.

 If the answer to any of these is no or I don’t know, raise the flag. If you honestly believe that your answers are the correct ones, you needn’t worry much.

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