Where Projects Go Wrong

1200px-Miners_change_room,_Rammelsberg,_Lower_Saxony,_Germany,_2015-05-17 Cropped

Projects go wrong because we don’t ask the right questions up front.

I know, it’s a vast generalization, but I’d like to take a moment to apply it for the length of this blog post. We get bogged down in mindless, endless, directionless projects because of a lack of information from the start. We are ill informed because we don’t ask the right questions!

Have you ever joined a project team, only to find that everyone on the team has their own interpretation of what the project entails? It might be true that everyone has good ideas, but what are the specifications? What are the deliverables? What are the vital details?

I think people mean well. We’re all trying to get along in the world of work, and, for the most part, that means that we are looking, no, BEGGING for ways to apply our strengths. Sometimes, however, our strengths and our ambitions can get in the way of a project’s success.

So let’s get down to details here. What questions should we ask at the start of every single project?


  • Who is the person (if they’re not in the room) who started this project?
  • Who is in charge around here?
  • Who is in the room that doesn’t need to be, and who isn’t in the room that NEEDS to be?


  • What are we working on or trying to accomplish?
  • What resources will we have at our disposal?
  • What are the projects priorities – what MUST be done and what is open to interpretation?


  • When does this whole thing need to be done?
  • When will the team meet, and when will the work be performed?
  • When do the people who care about the project need to be updated?


  • Why are we doing this (what is the intent?)
  • Why are we doing this now (not in the past, or in the future)?
  • Why is everyone in the room (what skills do we bring to the table)?

This list is by no means exhaustive, but it’s a healthy start.

So today, when you find yourself with a new task that has all the signs and symptoms of a project, ask yourself these questions. If you don’t have an easy answer for each, set up a meeting to GET those answers!

A little work up front clarifying expectations will save you a TON of time, effort and rework down the line.

Image credit: "Miners change room, Rammelsberg, Lower Saxony, Germany, 2015-05-17" by Slaunger - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons

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