For all the charts, graphs, burn-downs, presentation decks, velocity tracks and steering calls, there is often an 800 lb gorilla sitting quietly in the corner.
Just one simple question…
Does This Project Still Make A Strong Business Case To Continue?
The PM doesn’t want to ask it, especially if they’re on a contract. A “no” means that they’ll have to wind up the project, close it out, and, well, you just closed your job early. Good luck explaining that to the bank manager.
The Project Sponsor doesn’t want to ask it. A “no” for them may mean that the project they fought tooth and nail for, that they may have expended a vast amount of political capital and personal credibility on, is a big, fat, hairy FAIL.
The team doesn’t want to ask it. No-one likes bad news, and the bearer even less. Why risk getting your head chewed off especially if it’s just before bonuses are being discussed?
Yet, the ROI is the heart of every project. Change happens, either to avoid failing or to move into a more profitable space, so we need to ask this. To its credit, the first principle of PRINCE2 is that there must always be a viable Business Case driving the project.
In PRINCE2, the Business Case is updated throughout the project, not just used to start the project up. At every transition it is reviewed and, if the factors underlying the Business Case change and the expected benefits evaporate, then the project should be closed.
No-one wants to pull the plug. We all become professionally invested in the work as we are judged by our last project. But, as a PM, we have to accept that as much as we want to chant the “Every Project: On Time, On Budget, On Scope!” or push “No Project Left Behind!”, part of our role is sometimes to call it a day and lay the project to rest. We can still learn from it and the plan is intact, in case circumstances change and the project becomes viable again. But, until then, an early controlled landing beats a messy crash-and-burn later.
Push the button and pull the plug. Say goodbye.