Imagine that a company must execute a strategically important project, such as the development of a new product, software system or marketing program.
At the start of the project, the project team will have a very low worry level. In the face of seemingly minor issues or delays, one might hear the common refrain, “There’s plenty of time to get the project done.” We call this honeymoon period “Uniformed Optimism.” During this period, project worry is postponed.
As the project deadline begins to creep over the horizon, the project team gradually transitions into “Vague Concern.” Its symptoms include that queasy feeling in the project manager’s stomach whenever he/she thinks about the project (so they just don’t think about it). Team cohesion begins to crumble as team members begin to think about their career and build defensive strategies to shift potential blame. Worry escalates!
Like a snowball going downhill, vague concern turns to “Panic” – the deadline arrives. With the project nowhere near completion, worry shoots through the roof….and money starts flying out the door. In addition to the budget getting blown, the quality is compromised as content is dropped and quality assurance steps are skipped. The deadline comes….and goes!
The project ends in disaster as competent, dedicated project members lose their professional credibility, reputations and quite possibly their jobs. What’s worse, the cycle just continues. While the panic over one project continues, other projects are starting – doomed for the same fate.