Issue-Free Projects Are the Exception, NOT the Norm

I enjoy being part of project management panel discussions. Just when you think you’ve heard it all, someone asks a question or talks about a situation that blows your mind!

In a recent panel discussion, one such comment came up. This person asked us how many of our projects have had issues because according to her PMO manager, NO project should EVER have issues if you’ve planned sufficiently.

The answer from us panelists was unanimous; every project we could remember had an issue!

Let’s be honest, projects can range from small and quick to large and complex. Project team members usually have other responsibilities, not to mention can quit. Technology changes. The market is always churning and changing. New management may have different needs or expectations than their predecessors. Stakeholders want something different every day. Yeah, things goes wrong, and it can happen real quick!

What does all this mean? Issue-free projects are the exception, not the norm!

When kicking off a new project, you may be able to identify where the most likely place for issues may pop up. For example, if you need a specific person to complete a task, and that person is always 110% utilized, you may not get them in time. Look for mitigations early to prevent loss of time later. Or, you know there is a reorganization coming and it’s possible your sponsor may change. Keep good documentation to on-board the new sponsor quickly so no momentum is lost. With experience, you’ll be able to see possible issues more and more.

But even the best mitigation planning won’t prevent all issues. They happen. When an issue happens because someone made a mistake, don’t throw them under the bus. They didn’t come to work to intentionally screw up your day (if they did, get them off the team quick). Instead, thank them for bringing it forward, fix it quickly, and move on. Lesson learned. Public shaming only makes people hide issues in the future.

Expect project issues, but do what you can to identify them early and develop mitigation strategies. When mistakes are made, don’t blame people. Resolve them and move on. No matter the project size or the amount of risk mitigation you do, issue-free projects are not the norm.

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