The death of a project…..

At what point do you stop a project?

That was the question posed on a recent 2 day project management event we ran for a client. It’s a great question and one which the group pondered over for a while. They came up with an interesting list, some of which are shown below. They may not be specific to your situation, but they were to this group:

  • when the project has formally ended i.e. all the deliverables have been accepted by the client and the project formally closed. The group agreed that the post project review would check the level of client satisfaction
  • when it is obvious that the project will not deliver against the original business case. This was an interesting debate. One person suggested that a project may not meet all of the original business case but may still deliver a ‘significant project’ for the client. However, consensus seemed to be that if the original business case could not be met better to stop the project and rethink the business case OR abandon
  • when the project is so over budget that you are simply pouring money into a sinking hole
  • when key stakeholders object to or clearly do not buy into the project and without them, the project will clearly not succeed. The group felt that some consultation process be established to move this forward. If it was clear that the stakeholders would not buy in then abandon in its current form another project should be set up to coax and influence them and then restart the project
  • when the project does not fit with the overall strategy of the company. This was met with total unanimity by the group who felt their organisation did too many projects and not all fitted into the company strategy
  • when risks are so high that too continue would impact negatively on the company – financial, publicity, health and safety were cited here

Interestingly, no one in the group had ever been involved in abandoning a project, as a project manager, team manager or a sponsor.

A common cry from people who attend our training events are that there are too many projects, not all will be delivered, and not all fit the strategy of the company. How many project have you stopped or to put it another way; how many need to be stopped?

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3 Responses to The death of a project…..

  1. I’ve had some personal experience with a project that should have been stopped. I was a developer at the time, and this was a pet project. A portion of it was valid and delivered a tangible benefit…another portion was run by a different department’s project manager, and clearly had no benefit to the organization. I believe that element of the project was purely political…I was only partially involved, because my group was dependent on the other group…(by mandate, not because we couldn’t proceed and build a product with great ROI without their input).

    When it’s the sponsor’s pet project, there is little you can do unless you are able to convince them that their idea was wrong. Good luck! Most executives that are prone to having a “pet project” are not very responsive to constructive criticism about it. Those who are responsive don’t have a “pet project” in the first place, they let the ROI and other analysis decide what gets done.

    Josh Nankivel

  2. Ron says:

    Thanks for this Josh, some very good points.

    This is interesting; is this a project management issue or a strategic/departmental management issue which looks at resource allocation, project success through benefits management etc.

    I am soon to deliver a speech to a group involved in e-government projects. The thrust of my message is that it is great to have skills in project management (and these need further development) however we all need to develop our PEOPLE skills to deal with some of the more difficult issues, including dealing with sponsors.


  3. Peak says:

    Some very good points,Thanks for this Josh.

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