Ever had a project that just didn’t go well? Of course you have… you may not have realised how bad it was…you still may not realise it…but we’ve all had one or two.
For me, it was one that spiralled down the drain due to error-prone deliverables going out to the customer, a staff that was overloaded with other projects across the board, a project manager (me) who took the client’s satisfaction a little too much for granted until it was too late and didn’t apply enough oversight to my project team and their assigned activities…plus a few other things I can’t seem to remember. But it was bad…and kept getting worse. Ouch…it hurts just to go back there and think about it.
Instead, let’s think productively. When you’ve had those regretful projects, did you learn from them? Did you face the facts, talk to the client and get their full list of grievances? Did you write these problems down, keep track of them and understand them? Did consider them lessons learned for future projects so that you won’t revisit these same issues again, if possible?
What can we do, proactively, to avoid these types of regretful situations? And if we experience them, what can we do to try to draw some customer goodwill out of the muck and mud of a failed project? Basically it starts and ends with honesty and communication (and probably less procrastination), but let’s look at some specific points…
Communicate better with your project team.
Communication on the project is the absolute top priority for the project manager. Efficient and effective communication. If you’re the PM and it isn’t your top priority, then you better change your priorities. Because you’ll never experience regular project successes without making it a top priority. Your team needs
Communicate better with your customer.
Guess what? Communication with the customer is equally important. Let it fall away – even briefly – and watch how quickly customer satisfaction dips and they become uneasy. I’ve seen it, unfortunately. Respond when contacted, inform when there’s a reason to inform, and tie them in to ongoing project communication as much as is possible and practical and appropriate. Obviously, they don’t want to hear everything and they shouldn’t hear everything…but what you do share with them depends on the customer, your organization’s policies and the project. Stick with it and communication regularly and often.
Don’t let anything out the door without double checking it first.
Remember the carpenter’s rule: “measure twice, cut once.” If I followed that I’d have a better fitting screen on the front window of my new house. And if I’d applied that
The bottom line is this – project problems, issues and failures happen. When we only are able to react to these problems, issues and failures..that’s when project failure is often the end result. When we are only reacting, we are chancing that it may be too late to save the project timeline, or save the project budget, or save customer satisfaction. The real damage may be done. Rather it is far better to learn and to understand how to be proactive. How to take action and implement processes and team behaviours that will help avoid or mitigate the same problems and issues on future projects.
Tell us about your regretful projects. What went wrong (if you care to share)? What did you do to try to correct the problems? What would you do differently now?