I will contend that many programs and projects struggle because program and/or project teams do not have a clear picture of the intended program outcome and their role in delivering the desired outcome. This is especially true with IT projects utilizing new and emerging technologies.
This phenomenon has many early warning symptoms. For example,
1. Early on in the program, each member of the project team cannot articulate the intended program outcome, why it is important to the organization or the value they will contribute to the program’s and/or project’s success.
2. Team members cannot articulate what needs to be done. Team view is, “We will figure it out as we go along.”
3. New technology has never been implemented in a large complex environment and, therefore, technology vendor assists with defining WBS/WBS Dictionary definition or risk event identification – often this definition is what the vendor can (or wants to) do and not what is needed by the program
You may have observed other symptoms, but I think you get the picture.
So the question becomes, why is this important? It is important because when program/project teams are not clear on the outcomes and their roles, projects stall. When programs/projects stall, the budget is over-run and key milestones are missed. Very often the program/project scope is narrowed to deliver the project with some benefit earlier than the newly projected delayed end date. In all cases, the program/project does not meet the approved business case.
As the program and/or project leader, you need to be clear and you MUST make sure the program/project team is clear on all aspects of the work effort. Specifically, you need to be clear on the outcome(s) and expected results, the purpose of the outcome, the skills required to achieve the outcome, and how the outcome/results are going to be achieved.
With respect to your team(s), you need to make sure your team is clear on the outcome and why the outcome is important. Each team member also needs to be clear on the deliverables expected from them and their due dates. You also need to ask each team member what dependencies they have on other team members’ deliverables and/or intermediate work products.
Short of your program/project team(s) having this clear picture, you are putting your program/project at risk (e.g., cost, schedule, quality, etc.) of not achieving the approved business case. This communication should be communicated to the team during the initial kick-off meeting and reinforced at least monthly during regularly scheduled team meetings.
First, to address existing stalled projects, take the time to make sure your team has a clear vision of the intended outcome and its role in achieving that outcome. Your team should be refocused on the intended outcome and will offer up ideas on how to get “unstuck.”
Second, to help prevent stalls on new programs/projects, communicate the desired outcomes, program/project purpose, and expectations during the kick-off meeting. In addition, as you bring aboard new team members, make sure each team member is clear on the program/project intended outcome(s) and their role in the achievement of those outcomes. You will be glad you did.