Breaking News!! Proactive Project Failure Strikes Again

In it’s ever present sense, well planned projects have the strange ability to fall utterly flat, even after careful evaluation, consideration and the most diligent of planning. But wait! What if that planning phase, wasn’t as diligent as it could have been, what if a saboteur was innocently veiled in the project planning meetings. This saboteur we will call ‘the quite guy in the corner who thought of a really important detail that no one else seemed to notice, because he was secretly an expert at xyz.’. OK to long, by was to afraid to say, hey what about this? For whatever reason, our accidental saboteur decided that the cost of looking like a skeptic and ‘nay sayer’ was personally to risky. Maybe he raised a hand, maybe she made an under the breath comment. Regardless because a culture existed wherein this person was ignored, or not safe in sharing their idea, things went bad. Article #2 for me, is again (surprise) an HBR post on the nuances of premortem vs postmortem analysis or project. How doe we ensure that that we avoid the postmortem, but having a strong enough antithesis conversation and a culture that demands the ‘what ifs’ are explored exhaustively. This pre planned critique, will always be vital when dealing with something so intricate. It really falls on everyone in the room to push the collaborative conversation and to really take ownership of the project/product/task/deliverable/use_your_term_here.

Food for thought? Comments and critique welcome!

3 thoughts on “Breaking News!! Proactive Project Failure Strikes Again

  1. I think every meeting has someone who is quiet or rarely talks and it’s SO important that their thoughts are heard. I’ve found that these people usually have great ideas and solutions to problems that have been discussed in front of them for unnecessary long periods of time. At my last employer people were expected to bring one or two comments to meetings or have prepared questions. If they came with nothing our group’s GM would ask them in front of everyone for their opinion and didn’t leave the option for them to sit in the corner quietly. It seems harsh, but always caused great discussions and helped that quiet person break out of their shell.

    1. I totally agree with you Lindsay. At my company everybody works on a project so we have had a lot of time to fine tune our planning process. In the department I work in, the director and/or PM on a new project will always hold a kick off meeting before the initial award and again shortly after the award. The meeting organizer always goes around the table and has everyone say what is on their mind. We have the same 5 or 7 functional managers on all our projects and so there is a level of comfortability and expectations with a new project. They know they are expected to think from all angles and the PM knows to ask. Sometimes something unexpected may slip through the cracks but it definitely keeps expensive and timely major issues from coming into fruition.

  2. Sadly, a lot of times I’m THAT person! I don’t have a good excuse for it, but it is that way. So, I can say for THAT person the following things would probably be helpful.
    – Smaller more focused meetings
    – Meeting agendas provided ahead of time to allow preparation of ideas and thoughts
    – Encouragement from team members or managers
    Like Lindsay mentioned, just being asked for an opinion is sometimes enough to get THAT person talking.

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