3 Ways Projects Go Sideways

Intro

Projects often start out with a lot of optimism and energy. At the beginning, everything seems like it will work out, or at least be possible. However, projects can also lose their way. Deadlines get missed, expectations go unmet, and everyone is left wondering where things went wrong. Here are 3 ways projects can go astray, and how to avoid them.

1. Scope Creep

Scope creep happens when the original goals of the project are expanded. While adjustments are often made to projects, continually adding new goals can slow progress, confuse team members, and unreasonably inflate expectations. A project with too much scope creep will be hard pressed to meet all of its new goals, leading to low morale and customer disappointment.

In software projects, this usually takes the form of additional features on top of those originally requested. Some features may or not be related to the original goal. Sometimes, as a practical matter, adding these new requirements are necessary. However, every decision must be weighed carefully. New scope means new code. New code means more bugs. More bugs means more time. Continually adding more scope will inevitably lead to overloaded team members, low output quality, and disappointed stakeholders.

The key to controlling scope is making sure that all trade offs are well understood before making any changes. Team members should be asked for their input regarding their area of expertise. The original goal of the project should be considered, and whether or not that goal is put in danger by the new requirements or furthered by them. There are no easy answers, so make sure scope changes are not taken lightly.

2. Lack of Communication

Communication is key in any team endeavor, and projects are no different. Communication is essential to make sure team members are making progress, requirements are clear, and everyone has a common understanding of the tasks at hand. However, communication takes consistent effort, and can easily be ignored when team members silo themselves off into their own tasks.

This causes problems in a number of ways. For example, when it comes time to combine outputs, team members may realize that they had different ideas about what the requirements are, and the project ends up delayed because of rework. In other cases, team members may do redundant work because they didn’t realize some of it was supposed to be done by someone else. If feedback on the output isn’t collected often enough, whoever is signing off on the project might decide that what has been created has gone in the wrong direction, again causing rework.

Preventing these headaches requires a consistent method of communication amongst all team members. The team should have a communication strategy agreed to by everyone involved and maintained over the course of the project. Communication can take many forms: Face to face stand up meetings, regular email schedules, instant messaging, phone calls or any other of the options available. The form of the communication matters less than the actual activity of the communication.

3. Resource Overcommitment

In today’s organizations, individuals are often expected to work on multiple projects at once. This can easily lead to unclear priorities and overworked team members. If someone is given more work than they can complete, something they’re working on is going to get dropped. This will lead to missed deadlines, team member burnout, and sometimes project failure.

People that work with multiple teams are especially susceptible to this. A designer that has to support both product and marketing teams can easily be overworked. A specialized engineering resource might need to be involved with multiple teams. The legal team might need to review new customer contracts and also business developer deals. In all of these cases, overcommitting limited resource can lead to project delays and failures.

The most important way to avoid this is to recognize these limited resources and schedule with their availability in mind first. Even if there are more people in other groups, the time of the scarce talent needs to be put ahead of other concerns. Additionally, projects should not schedule the limited resources at the same time if at all possible. Needing to switch between different projects will not allow the project members to focus and can lead to mistakes.

Conclusion

Project can go sideways for many reasons, but these are 3 that stood out to me. When projects fail, it can lead to unhappy customers, missed opportunities, and even destroy careers. I hope that by recognizing these scenarios in your own projects, you will be able to fix the situation and achieve better success.

Kachi is built to help busy professionals overcome these problems. Clearly defined deliverables help curb scope creep. Automated status collection and report generation automate important pieces of team communication. A multi project timeline helps schedule tasks when resources are actually available. Sign up for our mailing list to try the closed beta today!

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