As we close out this five part series on some of my favorite project killers, let’s consider what we’ve covered so far in Parts 1 through 4:

  •  Part 1 - starting too fast – don’t start before everyone is really ready and the project is well-defined
  •  Part 2 – a vague budget – managing a project with no real budget is dangerous – sounds easy but it’s not and it can become very hard, if not impossible, to ever define financial success
  •  Part 3 – an indecisive customer – the indecisive project customer provides the team with a desired end solution that is basically a moving target…will this customer ever be happy?
  •  Part 4 – a frequently change project team – this can wreak havoc with project timelines, budget and customer confidence as resources are replaced, trained and the PM continuously works to assure the customer that “everything is alright”

In this final installment - Part 5, I’d like to discuss the issues we can experience with the project when the project plan or project schedule – whatever you like to call it – starts to become too flexible.

Flexible Project Plan

Flexibility is a good thing under the right circumstances. I like to consider myself to be a very flexible project manager and consultant – ready to do what is needed to please the customer. But when the project schedule becomes a constantly changing piece of the overall project puzzle, it can become next to impossible to keep track of the project and the progress everyone is making on their individual tasks. Are we truly making progress? Are we ahead or behind? It can become very difficult to tell because task priorities are shifting, task dependencies may be shifting, and what the customer wants – or thinks they need - may be changing and causing this schedule volatility.

It is critical at the time of kickoff to review the project plan in draft and discuss milestones. Get the customer’s verbal agreement at that time as to the general milestones and anticipated implementation date. And, within the first 2-3 weeks of the project, finalize this project plan in greater detail and obtain a formal customer signoff, if necessary, to ensure that everyone is on the same page with dates, expectations, etc.

A moving target project plan or schedule is truly nobody’s friend. You don’t really want to be known as the ‘flexible’ project manager. If dates, tasks, and milestones are constantly shifting, then your ability to hold delivery team members and customer team members accountable to dates and tasks falls apart and you’re still left with the target on your forehead.

Summary

I never expect the project schedule to remain unchanged throughout the project. In fact, I don’t expect it to remain unchanged from one week to the next. Minor date changes, tasks assignments, and some priorities are going to be changing…that’s just a project management fact of life. The key is to keep them to a manageable minimum and to keep them closely managed so that you can quickly identify any major impacts to the project and initiate change orders when necessary and, therefore, keep the project on track in terms of timeline and budget.

This concludes my five part series on potential project killers. I would really like to hear from some or our readers on their experiences with these situations and others that have or can seriously threaten chances for project success.

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Brad Egeland
About the Author

Brad Egeland

A Business Solution Designer and IT/PM consultant and author with over 25 years of software development, management, and project management experience leading initiatives in Manufacturing, Government Contracting, Gaming and Hospitality, Retail Operations, Aviation and Airline, Pharmaceutical, Start-ups, Healthcare, Higher Education, Non-profit, High-Tech, Engineering and general IT. Brad is married, a father of 9, and living in sunny Las Vegas, NV.

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