On major implementation projects that end badly, I’ve noticed three warning signs that present themselves with remarkable predictability. If you spot them early, you may have the opportunity to correct your course before it’s too late.
1. Indecisive Decision-makers
Your project is approved and you’re moving forward, but key decisions still haven’t been made. You can’t decide what to include and what to exclude. You can’t decide on an implementation date. You’re not sure what the budget is. Should you do it all at once or phase it in?
Solution: The best decisions are made by those who are close enough to understand the situation and consequences. The further away you get, the poorer the decisions are.
2. Incommunicado communications
This is easiest to identify when there is no communication plan at all. Alternatively, there may be a plan, but the plan is inadequate for the project. The reasons for this are many. Maybe leaders don’t see the need to communicate it (even though it’s a major implementation). Because knowledge is power, some are reluctant to share information and therefore give away power.
Solution: Make communications a key component of your project plan. Include someone from the communications department (the higher up, the better) very visibly on your project team. Give them time on the agenda to set forth a communication plan. Be persistent.
3. Untimely timelines
The most common cause for this is setting the implementation date before you create the project plan. Don’t believe this occurs? It happens all the time. ALL. THE. TIME. Somebody somewhere thought you didn’t need to waste time considering what has to get done before setting a go-live date.
Solution: CREATE THE PROJECT PLAN FIRST. Get the Project Management Office involved early to get their help, and by all means consider every stakeholder who will be touched by this along the way. Ask them how long they need to get their part done. Leave adequate time for testing. By the way, you’ll need time to create a good project plan, too, so leave room for this in the timeline while you’re at it.