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ASK OCE — July 20, 2006 — Vol. 1, Issue 10

When a project runs into serious trouble, aerospace veterans can usually trace the difficulties back to a core set of problems that occur over and over.

Over the course of his thirty-plus year career, Frank Martin has worked with enough spaceflight projects to know the usual suspects when a project goes into a tailspin. A veteran of NASA and the private sector who started out in the Apollo program, Martin now leads Performance Enhancement teams of expert practitioner for the Academy of Program/Project & Engineering Leadership (APPEL). This cumulative experience has led him and his colleagues to compile a list of the seven deadly sins of project management:

  • Vague roles, accountability, and authority
  • Team leaders who are ineffective or whose talents are mismatched with their responsibilities
  • Poor acquisition planning, with poorly structured contracts and/or contractors doing the wrong work
  • A mismatch of the defined project scope and the available resources
  • Ineffective systems engineering, particularly around complex interfaces
  • Ineffective risk management process
  • “Broken” contexts  poor project environments that invite failure

Of all these problems, Martin says, the worst is not taking action once a project team member has identified a bad context. “Poor performance has much more to do with the environment than individuals,” he says. “Context trumps character and drives ethics.

The good news is that there are effective ways to mitigate all these issues under the right circumstances. APPEL’s Performance Enhancement teams seek to identify the underlying causes of a project’s weaknesses and then address those issues by working with teams or individuals. Each Performance Enhancement consultation begins with a web-based team assessment, including benchmarking against “peer teams.” This eight-question survey requires about ten minutes per individual on the team. Based on the results of the team assessment, expert practitioners like Martin work with the team management to determine an appropriate mix of services, which may include coaching, mentoring, or technical assistance.

Learn more about APPEL’s Performance Enhancement services..

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