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Project Failure and Why to Flee from Ad Hoc

The chaos that accompanies project initiation often sets the stage for built-in failure. But this, according to Nick Pisano at his project management blog, can be avoided as the organization transitions from an ad hoc approach to a more structured one.

Act 1: Utter Mayhem

The introduction of new technologies or systems will present a swarm of destabilizing factors:

  1. Unfamiliar Surroundings
  2. New Peers
  3. Different Management Structures
  4. Business Units in Development Stages
  5. Resources being Identified and Applied to Project Tasks
  6. Roles / Responsibilities becoming Defined and Documented
  7. Planning and Assessment Methods are Unformed
  8. Project Goals still Need Scrutiny

In other words, with the start-up phase of any endeavor, the initial plan crumbles in the face of day-to-day realities:

It is during the initial phases that projects are most vulnerable to dysfunction that will bake in failure, long-run difficulties, or disappointment.  Even where it appears initially that the organization is responding positively a good manager must be aware of the social psychology underlying the results.  During this period it will appear that the system itself is experiencing mood swings.  One day will feel like victory while the next will feel like defeat, and then back again.  Pockets of resistance will appear as managers see push-back from established stakeholders, others will embrace the change and it will appear that the organization is coalescing sooner than expected.

Act 2: Transition to Stability

At this point of transition, author J.C. Jang would note that it is crucial for management to find a certain rhythm. Pisano agrees, but points to the handling of discrete changes as a more pertinent issue to be addressed. He believes that when faced with the introduction of new technologies, management should be prepared to familiarize stakeholders with new processes, and to be decisive about staffing, timing, and structuring. Constraints will limit decision making, but many tasks will be determined on the fly.

Read the entire blog at:

About Eric Anderson

Eric Anderson is a staff writer for CAI's Accelerating IT Success. He is an intern at Computer Aid Inc., pursuing his master's degree in communications at Penn State University.

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