7 Project Danger Signals

We’ve all been on projects that we knew were in trouble – you may even be on one now. Many times, the words and actions of the team members telegraph the troubles. Be on the lookout for these seven danger signals.“It’s not in the spec.” How many times have you heard that? While there can’t be a “spec-of-the-day”, success depends on flexibility. Remember, you are developing the project to fulfill a business need. If the needs change or evolve, the project must change with it.

“You want what? A demo?” If your team looks at you in disbelief when you ask for a demo, be worried. If they point to reams of documentation instead, be especially worried. Remember, projects exist to solve business needs and the need probably isn’t documentation. In all likelihood, the goal is a “working” system and what better way to judge that than a demo.

“Oops, I forgot that.” If a task is repetitive, most people will try to optimize it. If the project plan calls for the “big-bang” final integration, that’s what you can expect – a “big-bang”. On the other hand, if you build, integrate and test from day one, delivery can be as smooth as silk. The surest way to streamline a process is to put the optimizing power in the team’s hands.

“Fill out a form.” Don’t even get me started on this one. If you hear this around your team, you probably don’t have a team.

team n. A group organized to work together

Ask yourself, “Do these forms facilitate teamwork or impede it?”“I don’t have time; I’m always in a meeting.” Groan. Even if this isn’t true, I would wager it’s the perception in 90% of organizations. In many meetings, information flows one-way: top-down. Question whether attendees are actually communicating; explore alternative channels for passive information. Guard against “meeting paralysis.”

“I’m waiting on so-and-so to finish.” Dependencies are a fact of life in complex projects. That’s why a team is involved. But if your team grinds to a halt waiting on someone – beware. Be on the lookout for choke points; encourage teamwork to resolve roadblocks.

“Everything’s fine. No problem.” Two words come to mind: Titanic and iceberg. While a positive attitude goes a long way, realistic communications must be the rule. Tough questions require honest answers; don’t be blindsided by false optimism or misplaced ego.

Are you hearing any of these on your projects? Do you have your own set of signals you listen for? Share them with us at talkback@llamawerx.com.

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