It's not you, it's me

Posted on Tue, 06/17/2014 - 23:38

Bad projects are toxic. 

While most staff within a company focus on the bottom line, the bottom line is no guarantee of project success. It's impossible to look in your crystal ball and make this call before a project begins. Hindsight is 20/20, right? 

This could be due to any number of different factors. Some I have seen include: clashing personality between teams, a lack of participation on behalf of the client, unclear expectations of roles and responsibilities, client changes the requirements throughout the project, client cannot provide the clarity of the requirements, etc.

When things begin to go sideways, the first question is: "How can we get this corrected?". Personally, I've seen miracles worked by teams that have faced adversity. No one likes to fail. In most circumstances, those I have interacted with have been creative problem solvers. And, always representing the best interests of the client, whether they realize it or not.

Here are some ideas to help address this.

1. Switch up your client communication. Consolidate and pare back the message you are sending to the client. Mix it up, your message may not be heard the way you are delivering it. 

2. Pause the project until you get answers. This is always risky with hard timelines. But, why have a client pay for work if the work is not going to meet their needs?

3. Bring in new people to bring fresh perspectives. This may be risky for the "institutional knowledge", but you were providing documentation all along, right? ;)

4. Escalate and communicate up. Brainstorm with others to get some help.

I've seen teams regularly bend over backwards, time and time again, for clients that do not help their own cause. The problems persist. Teams get burnt out, bitter, and disenfranchised. It's not healthy for anyone. So, what happens when nothing works?

Dump the client. 

Yes, you read that correctly. And, by this point, you are probably doing them a favor. You are acknowledging that failure is imminent and you are proactively ending things before the project gets worse, before more money is spent, etc. This may just be the "nudge" the client needs to get things resolved on their end. With any luck, there is enough time for a different company to come in and help out.

Think of a breakup with a girlfriend or boyfriend. You can't expect things to just change if you continually enable people. Your not ruling out getting back together, but a breakup certainly acknowledges fundamental issues. And, heck, your creating opportunities for both people to be happier in the end.

I'm not saying this is always the best strategy. However, it's one that rarely gets brought up. And, if we're being honest, it could be a perfectly viable option in some circumstances.

development people