Career connection

Managing troubled projects

If people are involved, it's a troubled project. Here's why.

During their careers, fraud examiners will inevitably run into major problems on a high-profile project such as a forensic investigation. Human interaction can b a messy affair and often a major hindrance in project management. Here are tips to minimize cognitive bias and other psychological pitfalls that sabotage the best-laid plans.

If you’ve ever attended project management training, you learned about the factors that help control the various project phases: planning/goals, project scope, timeline, budget, work breakdown structure (WBS), quality, communications and the project team. Following these practices helps place guardrails on your project, barring of course a highly improbable and consequential occurrence, commonly known as a “black swan event.”

I once believed that a project’s weakest link was “scope creep,” the uncontrolled growth of a project that accommodates the need for more labor, budget and time. I quickly learned, however, that this had an easy solution. Just ask the project stakeholder “which of these other priorities should I cut back on to make room for this additional unplanned effort?” That usually got them to reconsider their request.

When I was leading projects at Motorola, my team and I attended two weeklong programs, “Managing Projects in Large Organizations” and “Project Risk Assessment,” administered by George Washington University. On day one, an instructor made this memorable statement: “Too few people on a project can’t solve the problems; too many create more problems than they solve.”

And so, we were cautioned.

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