Lots of project activity but nothing to show for it

I had an interesting conversation with a client recently. They had been asked to look at a project where a significant amount of money had been spent on consultants, where a huge amount of management time had been expended but where nothing had been delivered:

  • little stakeholder satisfaction
  • lots of project meetings
  • no actual products (tangibles) identified nor delivered
  • project team ….huge

In short; a lot of frustration.

Something had to be done…

A company director said that something needed to be done. A new project manager was drafted in. The first thing he did was to look at what needed to be produced. He quickly got the project team to deliver some ‘quick wins’. Morale increased and this spurred the team to look at short v long (4 months) deliverables.

Now this is not the first time I have come across project teams where there is lots and lots of activity but very little delivered.

'Busy work' or identifying and delivering clear outcomes

I recalled a conversation with a fellow Consultant. He said that if companies had a robust project management approach which was adopted across the company (he is an advocate of mandating in projects – see We should make it mandatory for ALL projects )  then outcomes for all projects would be clear and what he called ‘busy work’ would not be seen.

What are your project outcomes?

Interestingly, on a lot of our courses I ask participants about the outcomes from their projects. Their answers are often vague, bear no relation to the project or…they simply do not know. The course helps people like this however what about you?

So, my question is this; what are the outcomes from your project(s) and would your sponsor and stakeholders agree?

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3 Responses to Lots of project activity but nothing to show for it

  1. Tony Adams says:

    Great post and well worth remembering…I had a similar incident on a project at I’ve just taken on. The senior stakeholders are looking for
    1. Confidence that we have structure and governance in place,
    2. Signs of tangible progress towards early business benefit realization

    Both are important and require different outcomes.

    PMs often fall into the trap of expecting that the Sponsor will be happy to see a Business Case, PMP, Test Plan etc…they a all critical and contribute towards engendering confidence, BUT we should also be looking for opportunities to deliver tangible results in short blocks, so that the Sponsor can feel the momentum building and can see results.

    – Take a look at the top 10 project issues…are there any that can be closed out/delivered early?
    – rather than wait for a full Set of Business Requirements, can e project deliver an interim document via roadshow/walk throw?
    – Any data cleansing, process auditing/inventory, disaster recovery planning…anyone that can be delivered as a simple, early chunk of activity without impacting the project critical path…all will help to build sponsor support.

    Thanks, Tony

    • Ron Rosenhead says:

      Thanks for the compliments Tony.

      Quick wins Tony ; so important and I am really pleased you mentioned this. It is not only the sponsor who is looking for these but stakeholders as well. I am also pleased you mention “PMs often fall into the trap of expecting that the Sponsor will be happy to see a Business Case, PMP, Test Plan etc…” These are only aids to delivering projects – not ends in themselves!

      One of the aspects you touch on is confidence. Project managers and team members gain this in abundance once some quick wins along side some of the more ‘planned’ wins are delivered.

      Great comments, thanks Tony


  2. Pingback: Avoiding the Quick Win paradox

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