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From Limbo To Liberation

by Michelle LaBrosse

We all have one hiding over there in the groan zone. Itís the unfinished project that lives in a strange sort of limbo. As Nassim Nicholas Taleb reminds us in The Black Swan, the longer a project goes unfinished, there is an exponential increase in the time to finish the project. Sound familiar?

So, you see them lurking there getting dusty and forlorn, what should you do about them? How can you move these projects from limbo to liberation (aka completion)?

Hereís my Project Liberation Check List:

  1. Look at all your unfinished projects. Which ones are still relevant? Whatís important, and what no longer matters?
  2. What can be recycled? Those projects that have expired or no longer matter can still be useful. Look at them, and see if any of the project assets can be reused somewhere else. For example, were there any lessons learned that you can reapply? Why did these projects stall, and what put them on the back burner, and could you have prevented it? Also, go through your documentation, and pull out any golden nuggets such as charts or research or any data you can build on.
  3. Choose the projects youíre going to finish. Once youíve chosen the projects you are going to finish, then youíre going to reboot them Ė just like your overworked computer. However, this reboot is different from all the others, because you are going to finish this project in three months. Three is a magic number here. Why? Because in three months so much changes.
  4. During your Project Reboot, here are things you need to look at and probably change:
    • Your goals
    • Your project plan
    • The project schedule and cost baseline
    • The project team

    Key questions to ask:

    Has any of the technology thatís important to this project changed? Are you sure? Talk to your best friends in IT, and consult with them to make sure.

    Has the strategic direction of the organization changed? Is there new management, a merger or acquisition, or any new threats or opportunities? While this project was in limbo, did any key things in the environment change? This is important because if you lob the project back out there without considering the changes, it will flounder again.

  5. Rally the troops around this liberation. Itís important to get your team excited and let them know youíre clearing the decks of the old projects so your team can focus on the projects that are most important.

Why do we care about those projects in limbo? Because a bunch of unfinished projects suck the lifeblood out of organizations and keep us from moving forward. For the Project Manager, unfinished projects are our nemesis. We need to tackle them, evaluate them, recycle their assets or finish them.

And just like life, when you look back, what is the difference between success and failure? Itís often crossing the finish line. See you there. Iíll be the one cheering loudly.

About The Author

Michelle LaBrosse, PMP is Founder & Chief Cheetah, Cheetah Learning, the author of the Cheetah Success Series, and a prolific blogger whose mission is to bring Project Management to the masses. Michelle has been designing and teaching accelerated learning programs for business since the early '90's and traditional courses since the '80's. LaBrosse holds a B.S. Aerospace Engineering, and an M.S. Mechanical Engineering. She has done extensive postgraduate work with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Center for Advanced Educational Studies and the University of Washington Industrial Engineering Program in accelerating adult learning in corporate environments. Her research focused on using the Internet to accelerate adult learning and in determining effective adult learning strategies using accelerated learning with improvisational comedy.

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