The importance of killing projects: organizations must cast a critical eye at their own initiatives, keeping ego and ownership out of the equation.

Author:Amato, Neil
 
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Some of the traits of good project management include a detailed timeline, persistence in the face of setbacks, flexibility to adjust to market changes, and teamwork when facing a deadline. Well-managed, completed projects help organizations reach strategic goals, and they offer individuals a sense of accomplishment and understanding that they're contributing to those goals.

One aspect of project management that's sometimes forgotten is knowing when to kill a project.

"Stopping a project is not a failure," said Donny Shimamoto, CPA/CITP, CGMA, founder of consulting firm IntrapriseTechKnowlogies LLC in Honolulu. "Failing to stop a project when it should have been stopped: That's failure."

Projects take many forms. For consulting or CPA firms, the big project might be a new service offering. Not-for-profit organizations might put a team together to explore new ways to solicit online donations. And corporations may invest in new software to gather data about any number of measures.

Sometimes, though, projects must be killed. Perhaps they cost too much or take too long, or the organization's priorities change. The competitive environment, overall market conditions, or customer needs may have changed. While there may be good reasons to kill projects, the desire to continue pursuing a goal may keep the project alive.

Better real-time monitoring of projects can lead to fewer projects being allowed to continue longer than they should. In fact, research by the Product Development Institute shows that higher-performing companies are more likely to kill projects before they are launched. Lower performers record a higher rate of failures than of project kills. Regularly scheduled check-ins, which include questions about whether the project should continue, will lead to quicker decisions.

"By having open communication, you're in tune with what's happening," said Kam Karamshahi, CPA/CITP, CGMA, managing partner at Rise Consulting Group in La Jolla, Calif. "You know that there is a point where it's just not going to work anymore; you might have to go to another option.

"Don't just give someone a deadline and then come back to that person three, four, five months down the road and say, 'Are we done?' If you do that, the chances of a project failing are much higher."

Here are five obstacles to projects being killed too slowly or not at all and how organizations can overcome those obstacles:

KEY OBSTACLES Ego

Project leaders should set aside ego and reevaluate a project based on costs and benefits, no matter whose idea it...

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