Most consulting engagements go according to plan and deliver great value to the client. However, we all have had projects that go off the rails, either because of something we or others did. How can I know well ahead of time when a project is headed for failure?
One of the best ways to increase the probability of project success is to be vigilant that project failure is right around the corner. Despite our omniscient plan and exceptional project management skills, we do not control all aspects of a project. Client leadership, staff resources, the client company's market, communication miscues, lack of needed skills and other glitches can thwart an otherwise good plan.
Your project management plan, which you must develop jointly with your client, should address project risks explicitly. What if the client cannot provide the specified corporate leadership? What if the needed resources are not made available to you? What if your attempts to work with staff are resisted? What if you are not able to provide sufficient skills or resources to meet your commitments or resolve shortcomings elsewhere in the project? What are the biggest risks to project success and what (specific) mitigation or response steps are you both willing to make? Tip:
No one likes surprises. At the beginning of the engagement and, as often as you mutually deem appropriate, discuss how the project is proceeding and what risks have increased or new ones have surfaced. Make sure each major task area has been assigned as to both responsibility and accountability (often not the same person). This is no time to be either shy or proud. List every risk you can think of. Finally, stay well ahead of the plan by putting in place people and skills needed to assure project completion according to time, budget, quality and outcomes. © 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA