Sometimes you have a choice, and sometimes you don't. Probably most of the time you don't. If you do have any say in being assigned a project it is most likely that you are an independent consultant, your PMO director likes you, or you have seniority. You may want to consider some of these reasons for avoiding that next project that gets handed to you on a silver platter. Not all projects are created equal, and certainly, some projects are to be avoided if you don't want your next year filled with headaches with one of those ugly “failed project” tags hanging on one of your engagement masterpieces.Manage or not to manage. Now that's a heck of a question. A new project just came your way. Sometimes you have a choice, and sometimes you don't. Probably most of the time you don't. If you do have any say in being assigned a project it is most likely that you are an independent consultant, your PMO director likes you, or you have seniority. You may want to consider some of these reasons for avoiding that next project that gets handed to you on a silver platter. Not all projects are created equal, and certainly, some projects are to be avoided if you don't want your next year filled with headaches with one of those ugly “failed project” tags hanging on one of your engagement masterpieces.
I present my list five reasons based on my personal experiences. I included my observations of Project Manager colleagues and also share their experiences and thoughts. As you read through the list of five reasons, please consider your own experiences for sharing and discussions.
1. Only Partial Upfront Funding in Place.
Discovering your project is not fully funded can leave you in an interesting situation. Partial funding can be a tough pill to swallow when starting a project. As a Project Manager, you want to be in it for the long haul. Seeing a project from beginning to end is a rewarding thing. You have to consider that the client may be telling you that they want you to run the project, but they are looking only to have you do the upfront planning portion. Later the client is expecting to take the project’s actual design and development of the solution back in-house.
That can create a massive hole in your planned work for the next year or more. I don't know how you find this out in advance of taking the project. It has happened to me once. It usually comes to light when you try to bill for a certain expected piece of labor, effort, or deliverable early on only to have the client reject it and began having this type of discussion with you. If there is a way for you to find out and avoid this type of a project from the outset, my advice is to do so.
Set the expectations with the client by asking questions upfront on the project approach or timelines. Ask if you will be working on all the project’s phases or just some of them. Ask if the funding will cover any potential increases in work
2. No Customer Side Project Team
When there is no customer side of the project team, that can be a red flag of lack of commitment on the customer's part. You need involvement from the project client to get information, requirements clarification, decisions made, tasks completed, and meetings attended. If all you have is the sponsor and no backup representation, then it likely that their involvement in the project will at times be sporadic as they are busy with other tasks. An unavailable project client can create problems for you – difficult problems that hard to overcome. Their participation is critical. This individual representation can be a critical red flag indicating a successful project will be difficult.
3. New Territory for Your Organization
New territory isn't a bad thing. For the individual Project Manager, it can be a great way to add to your resume, but it can be a bit concerning when it is completely new territory for your entire organization. New territory can mean it's just you and your team without any support when you run into project roadblocks.
A situation like this happened to me on a project servicing a major airline. An industry that my organization had never dabbled in. It involved some serious considerations for the software we were configuring for the implementation of the solution. These were considerations that the organization had never encountered. Every industry comes with their regulations, measures, considerations, and processes. It was all new to my team and the organization. There were no experts to help us choose the right path or overcome any obstacles.
We were pioneers blazing a new path. It's not as fun as it sounds when you are up against nearly impossible deadlines, cost overrun concerns, and frequent change orders because this was never a solution implemented within this industry.
4. Unfamiliar Technology
I'm not saying exploring new technology and gaining new experiences for your resume is a bad thing. However, if it is something that you fear is too far out of reach for your organization additional consideration is advised. Lack of knowledgeable resources to develop and support this type of new technology throughout the project will certainly impact the project’s ability to build the solution. Unfamiliar technology should be a concern for any Project Manager before taking on a new project.
5. Risk and Cyber Security Are a Major Concern Beyond What You Or Your Organization Are Comfortable With
Everything can be hacked. If your new project involves some data risks or cyber security risks that you as the project manager have experience with it may be a project you want to avoid. I'm not saying you should run from a challenge and looking at project challenges as “dares” to get better, acquire new skills and experience as a Project Manager.
Security and risks are real. They can come with liability that can leave you the Project Manager in a dangerous spot should everything go south. I would be less concerned as a full-time employee of the organization but as an independent consultant (as I am right now) it can become a bit more concerning as any legal action is directed only toward the Consultant Project Manager.
Summary / Call for Input
I am sure there are several other red flags we can include. I can already think of a few more. These top 5 are a good gauge of some reasons to reject a project that comes up. I am of course making the assumption you have that luxury of passing on a project engagement.
Readers – what are your thoughts? Do you agree with this list? Do you have your own? Please share your thoughts and discuss.