Fading projects can be very frustrating for the project management team and to the stakeholders too. Most projects involve heavy investments in terms of finances and other resources, and the executives managing the project do not want to admit the failure the project (Institute, 2013). The irony is, they will smell the downfall of the project way before it even starts but do not want to accept that the progress of the project is decelerating. Mostly, they fail to accept the existence a threat because they do not want to disappoint the stakeholders, and they do not want to feel incapable. Both the articles “is your project turning into a black hole? By Mark Keil,” and “cutting you’re Losses: Extricating Your Organization When a Big project Goes Awry by Mark Keil” IT projects are the most vulnerable to failure despite them sucking away large amounts of capital (Institute, 2013).
It is right for Mark to call failing IT projects black holes. They can swallow away a great deal of resources and never reciprocate output of the same value just like the black holes in astrophysics, which soak up immense quantities of energy and matter. The progress of the project towards failure happens gradually (Institute, 2013). In the article, “is your project turning into a black hole?” Mark refers to this gradual process as escalating commitment to a failing course of action. It is not a process that takes place overnight. Rather, its a measured process takes place steadily. It is especially a common feature in projects that have a strapping IT component (Institute, 2013). Lack of managerial involvement is a factor that contributes into turning these projects into black holes. The main ideas presented by Mark Keil in the articles are that most IT projects are costly and may never even deliver the expected output. In the article “cutting your Losses: Extricating Your Organization When a Big project Goes Awry”, Keil provides a four-way strategy that managers can apply to evade project escalation and impede continued flow of finances and other resources.
It is very agreeable to call the escalating IT projects black holes. Some organizations do not test the feasibility of a project and instead, they go right ahead to invest in a project that they are not sure will deliver the expected output (Institute, 2013). IT projects require experts to test their viability. The management must first invest in testing the practicality of a project and later investing in implementing the project. It is true that some of the projects deliver outputs that may never be usable which makes the project a total waste of time, finances, and resources. The author of the articles successfully gives convincing examples of escalated project. For instance, he gives detailed explanations of the three phases of escalation for the California DMV’s Database Redevelopment Project and Euro Bank’s New Deposit System project (Institute, 2013). The details given and the breakdown of what happened are logic and give the reader a better understanding on the escalation process.
However, one feels that the authors have ignored the success factor in project management. Since the main theme of the articles is project management, one gets the impression that it was bias not discussing successful projects for the reader to compare and see the turn of events in successful projects (Institute, 2013). There are projects that have been successful for instance the “myBallPortal” project belonging to the Ball Packaging Europe, a beverage can manufacturing company in Europe. This global intranet portal provides a good communication platform for all the workers of the company worldwide. All employees of the organization globally are in a position to assess current information in the company (Institute, 2013). The project was a success, and there are others too that turned out to be a success.
The escalating process takes place in three phases namely drifting, treating symptoms, and rationalizing continuation. According to the authors of “cutting your Losses: Extricating Your Organization When a Big project Goes Awry”, the process of salvaging an escalating project is de-escalating. Finding an alternative course of action is a major step in de-escalating. However, you have to sell out the alternative course of action to the stakeholders for them to agree to the change of plans (Institute, 2013). Therefore, coming up with an alternative course of action may be futile if the stakeholders do not buy the idea. The different phases of de-escalation involve:
- Recognizing the existence of a problem
- Re-examining the current path in use
- Searching an alternative course of action
- Executing the exit strategy
The author reveals interesting information about how some famous projects escalated. For instance, the fiasco underlying the California DMV’s Database Redevelopment Project revealed interesting facts.
The authors have presented logic arguments for all of the ideas presented. The techniques offered to de-escalate commitment during failing projects reasonable and practical. Nevertheless halting the project temporarily may not be a practical suggestion (Institute, 2013). Halting the project means that the project will take much longer time than the budgeted time which means extra costs. Halting the project may also lead to some stakeholders withdrawing from the project as they start to lose confidence in the success of the project. Nevertheless, reducing the head count temporarily may be a suitable technique in salvaging an escalating project (Institute, 2013). Having many people in the management team increases chances of fraud not forgetting managing a big crowd may bring about management difficulties.
The lessons acquired are applicable even when undertaking personal projects. For instance, the knowledge acquired on project management will enable one to detect when their project is turning into a black hole. Any project will experience its own isolated setbacks since different projects will experience different types of drawbacks. For instance, a project to design new methods of online will not experience the similar limitations a project to design employees’ portals for employees to access pay slips online (Institute, 2013). However the basics acquired will be helpful in any kind of project. They ensure that one is not prepared in case of failure of a project.
I have acquired new techniques I can use when pushing my project at my place of work. The articles provide helpful knowledge on project management and it becomes easy to detect when the project is falling. It also provides with a strategy on what to do when the project is escalating. However, it is important to put cautionary measures since some of the strategies are just theories and may not yield expected results when applied practically (Institute, 2013).
Institute, P. M. (2013). A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge: PMBOK Guide. New York: Project Management Institute, IncorporatedReferences