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How to Kill an Undead Project

Some projects just rot out from the inside, and there are telltale signs of decay when you know what to look for. But how exactly do you kill these undead projects and limit the damage they can do to the business? Bob Lewis provides an in-depth answer in an article for CIO magazine.

Herding Zombies

There are many signs of an undead project. One is absolute, incurable team dysfunction, accompanied by finger-pointing. Another sign is that the project sponsor is not and was never committed to the project. And a third sign is that, after many months, there is still no extensive agreement on why the project is valuable, which leads to opposing camps competing for different deliverables on a project that might not be able to deliver any of those things.

If you think it is time to kill a bad project, you must carefully document your reasons for why, and then you need to present those reasons to the project’s executive sponsor. If the sponsor rejects your request to kill the project, this will of course put you in a bad spot—Lewis even recommends that you start looking for a new job now, while the project is still alive and not damaging your resume. But if you do get the okay to drop the axe, then there are more steps to take:

  • Conduct a post-mortem, but maybe give it a prettier title.
  • Inform the executive leadership team of the project cancellation.
  • Protect the project manager and project team as well as you can.
  • Announce a rough Plan B to replace the canceled project.
  • Decompress from the experience and reflect on what has been learned.

Lewis elaborates on the post-mortem with this:

Call it the Project Rescue Planning meeting instead. The sponsor convenes it. It’s attended by the core project team, a few trusted stakeholders, and a dispassionate outsider whose role is to keep everyone honest.

The official purpose is as the name suggests. The real purpose, however, is twofold: To persuade attendees that the project can’t be saved, and to develop a plausible Plan B that’s relatively low risk, relatively inexpensive, and avoids the mistakes that led to Plan A’s demise.

For additional thoughts, you can view the original article here: https://www.cio.com/article/3243084/project-management/how-to-kill-a-dead-project.html

About John Friscia

John Friscia was the Editor of Computer Aid's Accelerating IT Success from 2015 through 2018. He began working for Computer Aid, Inc. in 2013 and grew in every possible way in his time there. John graduated summa cum laude from Shippensburg University with a B.A. in English.

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