Seeing a project through from initial planning to completion is a big job. Challenges can come from many angles—stakeholders with ever-changing needs, vendors with busy schedules, and sometimes even executives with competing priorities or difficult strategic objectives to support.
One thing project management professionals know is that overcoming these obstacles becomes monumentally more difficult if the project isn’t tightly aligned with the organization’s overall goals or mission. A disconnect, even a relatively small one, can significantly dampen enthusiasm and engagement. It often leaves the project team on its own, with little meaningful support from the very stakeholders it needs most.
Unfortunately, it isn’t always obvious that the project’s problem revolves around misalignment with the organization’s wider objectives. This is particularly true when an executive has made the project into a personal pet (giving the appearance of support without formal buy-in), or when market pressures or other influences have changed the company’s course and affected the project’s relevance.
If your PMO is sensing support for a project has wavered but the cause isn’t clear, see if these telltale signs sound familiar.
Funding is difficult to secure. Getting money approved for projects is often a tough task even when stakeholders are eager and supportive, however, a PMO that’s constantly bumping up against resistance for even baseline funding should take a step back and figure out why. Projects that aren’t closely linked to the organization’s mission may look good on paper but may not pass the business case test. It’s also possible that stakeholders will express encouragement for the project but won’t be able to prioritize it over competing initiatives (which may be better aligned with the company’s current strategic direction).
You’re repeatedly asked to present the business case for the project. This may be due to other factors, such as a simple lack of understanding on the part of those reviewing the business case, but it could also be a symptom of an organization that isn’t quite convinced the project is worth the effort. Evaluate your communication strategy to see if your approach is lacking. Determine where you can provide more concrete details about how the project serves the organization’s wider goals. It may be as straightforward as asking stakeholders if they’re looking for additional justification points or specific data related to the project.
Your project has been shuffled between different budgets or business units. Sometimes dollars or initiatives need to move to a more fitting home, but this type of reorganization could spell trouble if it happens repeatedly. It may point to a company that believes in the project in principle but can’t quite seem to make it fit in with the current mission. If one or more reshuffles gives you cause for concern, consider working to align the project with the goals of a particular department or functional area. These will sync up with the organization’s overall mission on some level and your business case may be better received by the group you’re directly partnering with on a daily basis.
Scope creep is the order of the day. As annoying as scope creep is, it can be extremely useful as a harbinger of mission misalignment. Stakeholders sometimes begin by suggesting a series of changes to objectives and they’re often unusually receptive to deadline extensions for critical milestones. On the end user side of the project, your team is likely to receive requests for achievables that weren’t discussed during the project’s initial planning phase. Overall, scope creep associated with unaligned high-level objectives may look like the organization is seeking a project that’s nearly unrecognizable compared to the one that was actually approved.
Project management training tips provided by PMAlliance Inc.