Expert Panel

Common job issues and solutions in Project Management

Assessing Project Health


By Ron Montgomery, Management Consultant & Owner, OnPoint, LLC

In 2004, the Standish Group published a report on Information Technology (I.T.) projects, entitled “CHAOS Chronicles. They reported that 34% of projects were on time, 51% were challenged, and 15% were failures. Based on these numbers, it is reasonable to assume there is at least one problem project in every organization. Following are some points that we consider when evaluating the health of a project.


What is the problem? Is it worth solving?

It has been our experience that project managers and team members are focused on what needs to be done but may not know why. What is the business reason for the project? What problem are we trying to solve? Is it worth the investment of time and resources to solve the problem? These questions are often ignored at the beginning of the project but become critical later as resources are redeployed to work on higher priorities.


Is there a shared vision of project success?

When interviewing project stakeholders, we like to ask the question, “What is the definition of success?” In a troubled project, the answers provided by project sponsors will not match the answers from the subject matter experts and the project manager.


Is the project scope firm? Is there a process for handling change?

Every project participant should understand the deliverables that are to be produced. Any changes to those deliverables must go through an approval process. Troubled projects typically lack clarity regarding scope and change control processes.


Is the solution technically feasible?

One of our favorite questions is, “Has anyone on the team ever done this before?” By “this” we mean a project of this size, using this software, or this methodology. If the answer to the question is, “no,” then the project is not technically feasible. Either the technical solution or the team must change or the project will be challenged.


Is a sponsor or champion actively involved?

Projects are typically the “brain child” of a single executive who is willing to fight the political battles needed to keep the project moving forward. If the project has run more than a year, there is a high risk that the project sponsor has changed job duties, moved on to another company, or lost interest in the project. Without an active project sponsor, the project has a high risk of failure.


Do team members understand their roles?

A question we like to ask project team members is, “What are your responsibilities on this project?” On a troubled project, the answer is often, “I don’t know.” The team member may know the task they are assigned, but they do not know how they fit in the overall structure of the team.


Is there a plan? Does it reflect reality?

A plan should be more than a list of milestones. A proper plan should clearly define the major deliverables and the inter-related tasks required to produce the deliverables. It should also clearly show where the project stands relative to the plan. A troubled project rarely has an accurate plan.


Written by Ron Montgomery,
Project Management Expert for ManagingAmericans.com, Management Consultant & Owner, OnPoint, LLC


Have you ever used the Agile Method for Project Management