“So should we start with a meeting to review project charter, or shall we wait until the scope statement is more clearly defined?” asks the Project Manager in a typical give and take that takes place at the beginning of a project. Realty is that, most probably, it does not matter. Or at least it does not matter as much as other so important issues that need to be addressed, but are ignored. These are the elephants in the room that get ignored at the beginning of every project. These issues are so big and obvious, but maybe because of their sheer size, project managers, clients, and suppliers, prefer to ignore them as if they do not exist. Guess what: They do exist and they are the biggest challenges facing the project, and lead often to project failure.
The elephants in the room are all man-made. They are all about people. This is another reason why they get ignored. Most of them are caused by project influencers that no one wants to alienate. This results in sacrificing project value to address other factors like “looking good,”
preserving status, gaining favors, or being comfortable in complacency. Here are the top ten elephants that are places in the room on new projects, and get ignored by project stakeholders:
Elephant #10-Pick a big name: A project supplier is chosen because they have a good name, regardless of whether another supplier has more relevant experience.
Elephant #9- Cutting Corners: Trying to avoid risk, by taking shortcuts and downplaying key parts of the work, just to finish work on time and get payments
Elephant #8- Bureaucracy First: Worrying about deliverables and documentation, instead of results and value.
Elephant #7- Dangerous Leverage: Assigning juniors the work of seniors to save on project cost, then use politics and sales savvy to get acceptance
Elephant #6- Fancy software and shiny hardware: More attention is given to purchasing brand name software and hardware instead of focusing on improving performance, change management, and learning.
Elephant #5- To Accept or Reject is merely a question: Trying to control project when no one internally has the ability to review completed work. Sometimes external consultants are hired to review the work but they also do not have as deep knowledge as the supplier, and they end up limiting the supplier’s ability to deliver value, instead of assuring quality.
Elephant #4- Spending the Budget: Clients who are not sure what they want but have a budget that they must spend, and need to show quick wins for spending the budget. This results on tactical improvements being worked on instead of strategic improvements.
Elephant #3- The Hat does not fit: Roles and responsibilities on the project are distributed politically instead of technically.
Elephant #2- “Whatever”: Lack of interest in the project, especially when undertaken due to an external mandate.
Elephant #1- The Political Game: Project is lost in internal struggles where its value is judged based on who sponsored the project, not the actual value it delivers.