People are reluctant to report a lack of progress on a project even when they don’t have everything required to do it. The fear is the truth about why they didn’t get it done will not be acceptable. I know when team members who are late on tasks start avoiding me probably because of their fear. Most of the time problem they face while getting any task done are common and correctable, once identified. Still some are hidden and may take some coaxing to identify them. Here is a list of the most common hidden reasons why project fail and what to do about them:
- Work is not well-defined: The resource is confused by the task description but does not want to look stupid. This could be caused by any of the following:
- The task needs to be decomposed further and the resource assigned to the original task will only be doing part of it.
- The task is assigned to the wrong resource.
- Requirements for a deliverable need more elaboration.
- The task may not need to be done at all. It is not applicable.
- Don’t know how to do it: This is often the case in IT where the technology changes quickly. I am not talking about incompetence here. One cannot get a person with 3 years’ experience with a tool that only came out last month. A resource does not want to look stupid, but they may be the best person available. Training or allowing time for the learning curve is the way this is often resolved. Assigning the project task to someone else is another alternative
- Don’t have everything needed: There is a previously unidentified dependency on something else. This could be another project task, a tool, equipment, or specifications. Sometimes resources just require help in identifying what they need. Simply asking them what they need and then providing it usually resolves this.
- Higher priority work: When resources are shared they are reluctant to tell you that some other project, customer, or work effort was more important than yours. That may be the case however. It is important not to take it personally and escalate within the organization if needed. If the organization deems the other work more important, then you adjust the schedule accordingly. If not, then the resource gets corrected about today’s priorities.
- More complex than expected: This often happens in projects. The resource did not realize the complexity until they started doing the work. There were constraints that they did not realize existed. Resources may be embarrassed to admit this because it makes them look like they don’t know what they are doing. Getting a new estimate and revising the plan is the usual remedy.
- More volume than expected: The work is well understood, but the volume of things to be worked on is much greater than expected. This could be a case of scope creep or just underestimating.
- Scope creep: A stakeholder asks the resource to do more than planned or the resource gold-plates their work. Quality standards will help with the latter and encouraging honest and open communication will prevent the former.
- Technical issues: This is very common in IT projects because the technology being used is often not very mature. Tracking these in an issues log until they are resolved is the technique used on most projects. Publishing this issues log lets the team and all the stakeholders know what is being done about the problem. This is not usually hidden if the team knows there is a process for dealing with it.
Being able to identify these helps you deal with them in your current projects and being able to discuss them openly with your team helps them find ways to prevent them in the future. Implementing a good project management software helps you deal with all the above challenges in your current projects. Project management software not only assists you in defining task and provides all capabilities to manage the complexities to give the best possible outcome but also helps communicate better with all the stakeholders of the project.