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Michelle LaBrosse

Quality Insider

From Limbo to Liberation

Moving forward with your projects

Published: Monday, December 14, 2009 - 05:30

We all have one hiding over there in the groan zone. It’s the unfinished project that lives in a strange sort of limbo. As Nassim Nicholas Taleb reminds us in The Black Swan (Random House, 2007), the longer a project goes unfinished, there is an exponential increase in the time to finish the project. Sound familiar?

So, you see them lurking there getting dusty and forlorn, what should you do about them? How can you move these projects from limbo to liberation (aka completion)?

Here’s my project liberation check list:

Look at all your unfinished projects. Which ones are still relevant? What’s important, and what no longer matters?

What can be recycled? Those projects that have expired or no longer matter can still be useful. Look at them, and see if any of the project assets can be reused somewhere else. For example, were there any lessons learned that you can reapply? Why did these projects stall; what put them on the back burner; and could you have prevented it? Also, go through your documentation, and pull out any golden nuggets such as charts or research or any data you can build on.

Choose the projects you’re going to finish. Once you’ve chosen the projects you are going to finish, then you’re going to reboot them—just like your overworked computer. However, this reboot is different from all the others, because you are going to finish this project in three months. Three is a magic number here. Why? Because in three months so much changes.

Project reboot. your project reboot, here are issues you need to look at and probably change:

  • Your goals
  • Your project plan
  • The project schedule and cost baseline
  • The project team

 

Here are the key questions to ask

Has any of the technology that’s important to this project changed? Are you sure? Talk to your best friends in IT and consult with them to make sure.

Has the strategic direction of the organization changed? Is there new management, a merger or acquisition, or any new threats, or opportunities? While this project was in limbo, did any key things in the environment change? This is important because if you lob the project back out there without considering the changes, it will flounder again.

Rally the troops around this liberation. It’s important to get your team excited and let them know you’re clearing the decks of the old projects so your team can focus on the projects that are most important.

Why do we care about those projects in limbo? Because a bunch of unfinished projects suck the lifeblood out of organizations and keep us from moving forward. For the project manager, unfinished projects are our nemesis. We need to tackle them, evaluate them, recycle their assets, or finish them.

And just like life, when you look back, what is the difference between success and failure? It’s often crossing the finish line. See you there. I’ll be the one cheering loudly.

Discuss

About The Author

Michelle LaBrosse’s picture

Michelle LaBrosse

Michelle LaBrosse is an entrepreneurial powerhouse with a penchant for making success easy, fun, and fast. She is the founder of Cheetah Learning and a prolific blogger whose mission is to bring project management to the masses. She is a graduate of the Harvard Business School’s Owner/President Management program and holds engineering degrees from Syracuse University and the University of Dayton. Cheetah Learning is a virtual company with 100 employees, contractors, and licensees worldwide. More than 50,000 people have used Cheetah Learning’s project management and accelerated learning techniques.