When Good Projects Go Bad

March 6, 2013 | Author: PM Hut | Filed under: Project Management Best Practices

When Good Projects Go Bad
By Daniel Lock

Business doesn’t like risk, or more specifically we don’t like it when things go wrong. Projects go wrong all the time because by definition projects are not done as part of day-to-day business, otherwise we’d have a good understanding of the risks.

But we must still work to protect a plan. Below is a model for thinking about risk, and how to generate ideas for a comprehensive action plan to first, prevent things from going wrong, and then in case it does go wrong, have a back up plan.

In the below table, you are either at cause or effect. Either taking actions to fix the cause (now) or preventing these from happening (in the future). So, understanding where you are are you dealing with a problem now? If so, then taking corrective action to remove the cause will solve the problem, but until that fix is in place we need to take adaptive actions.

To prevent bad things from happening in the future, say, a house fire, we clean the gutters of dead leaves in preparation for the summer. Contingent actions to deal with this by having water sprinklers which turn on in the event of a fire.

Think through you plan and brainstorm the possible bad things that could happen, their potential causes, and preventative actions. Of course things always go wrong no matter how well we plan, so what contingencies will you put in place that become adaptive actions if this risk should manifest, until you can take corrective action to remove the cause.

  Now Future
Cause Corrective Preventative
Effect Adaptive Contingent

Always remember that for every contingent action you have, think of three or four preventative actions you can take.

The rule of thumb as to how many and where to stop is numb one, be paranoid, number two, be paranoid, number three, don’t be ridiculous. Another words: Use your judgment.

Daniel Lock is the principal of Daniel Lock Consulting Group, a firm specialising in helping leadership to innovate to more rapidly achieve individual and organisational goals.

Daniel is a former project manager, and operational manager at Westpac Bank in Adelaide, Australia. He has managed both line and project functions, and overseen re-organisations and department amalgamations. He has been a speaker at Westpac charity workshops.

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