South East Training - The Project Management Toolkit

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The Project From Hell

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Just a Little Project  

Imagine this scenario - you are at work, minding your own business, when you boss bounces into the room announcing that he or she has a 'little project' for you. How do you feel? Do you feel intrigued, excited, proud to have been singled out by your boss? Or, do you get that sinking feeling? The feeling that whatever motivated you to get out of bed this morning and come to work has suddenly vanished. You have been here before!

The Project from Hell

The last 'little project' turned out to be a monster, in more ways than one. What to do first? A plan, that's what you needed. But a plan to do what? Your boss never really explained what was required. They just gave you a vague idea and left you to make it up as you went along.


Maybe that's how all projects start, you thought. So, what now? Make a list! Yes, that's it, make a list.

You sounded out your ideas with your colleagues. Everyone was enthusiastic at the start, telling you this was your big opportunity to shine and they would help you every step of the way. ‘Great project’ they all said. And they were quite helpful in suggesting new requirements that you could add to your list. Suddenly, this 'little project' didn't seem so little any more. It seemed as though everyone thought your project was just the vehicle for achieving their own ends. Before long, you were beginning to lose sight of the original purpose of the project. Concerned, but undaunted, you still had your list!

The next job was to decide what needed to be done and who could do it. This wasn't so easy. You had never done this sort of thing before. Again, you turned to your colleagues. They should know, you thought! But, their initial enthusiasm was noticeably absent when you asked for the promised help. 'I'm just a bit busy at the moment'. 'Can it wait until next week?' 'I'm not the person you need to be talking to about this'. 'I'd be glad to help, but I'm moving to a new job in the next fortnight'.

But eventually, with perseverence, you did manage to get an agreement from some that they would help with the project. And so you developed a plan, complete with tasks, responsibilities and timescales. Brilliant! Your boss was very impressed - spending all of two minutes reviewing it.

'Go to it!' you were told.

And then the nightmare really began - broken promises, missed deadlines, budgetary overspend, constantly updated specifications, mistakes, poor quality outputs, angry stakeholders, sleepless nights. The plan, redrafted once, twice, three times, eventually abandoned all together. Oh, you did find a use for it - covering up the damp patch on the office wall.

What a relief when your boss called you into their office to tell you the project was to be shelved. Senior management decided they didn't need whatever it was you were asked to produce after all. And in any case, by all accounts the project wouldn't have met its objectives. You had run out of money, time, good will and patience. 'Nonetheless, a good effort' you were told.

No, not another 'little project'