The eXtreme Project Management™ Series: No. 4
Based on the forthcoming book:

The End of Project Management as We Know It:
eXtreme Project Management™ for Everyone

by Doug DeCarlo, Principal
The Doug DeCarlo Group

9 Reasons Why eXtreme Project Managers Fail
(Excerpted from Critical Success Factor #2: Leadership By Commitment)

Unlike traditional project management where the project manager focuses her energies inward on the product or service to be delivered, the most important job of the of the extreme project manager is to gain and sustain the commitment of the project's crucial stakeholders, including the project team.

eXtreme project managers fail when they turn their sights inward and focus on product development and technical (content) issues and neglect the project's context: the general business environment, stakeholder expectations, and the project's emotional well-being. Impact: unresolved conflict resulting in loss of commitment and, ultimately, failing to deliver an acceptable product or service.

The following project manager failure factors all relate to the project context. They are common to most all projects, but are intensified many times over on extreme projects.
  1. No Angel: Not having the right project sponsor, one who is a champion and barrier buster.

  2. Poor Soft Skills: These include communications, negotiation, conflict resolution, facilitation, and influencing skills.

  3. Hermit Crab Syndrome: Sitting in front of a computer instead of in front of stakeholders.

  4. Good soldier syndrome: Being too soft; not questioning authority, nor pushing back; simply following orders.

  5. Loss of Business Focus: Not applying or mis-applying the 4 Business Questions ...

    • Poaching: Taking over the responsibility for answering Business Question 1, "Who needs what and why?" This question belongs squarely with the project sponsor.

    • Chickening Out: Not taking ownership of and full responsibility for Business Question 2, "What will it take to do it?" This belongs squarely with the project manager.

    • Poor Mouth: Inability to get what is needed to succeed (Business Question 3, "Can we get what it takes?"). This is a failure in negotiation or not bothering to negotiate at all.

    • Malicious compliance: Moving ahead when the answer to Business Question 4, "Is it worth it?" is "No." This means implementing a project or keeping it going knowing it doesn't have a chance to succeed. Here the project manger gets blamed for the failure instead of the real reason: the non-viability of the business case behind the project.

  6. Methodology mis-match: Imposing a counter-productive methodology on the project; e.g., insisting on a waterfall instead of a rapid development process.

  7. Totoolitarianism: Also known as Management By Template; thinking that you can manage the dynamics of an extreme project by getting people to fill out forms, instead of putting the focus on unleashing motivation and innovation and establishing trust and confidence, all of which require a management style based on shared values and principles.

  8. Na�ve compliance: Failing to detect that the project is not solving the real problem.

  9. Fish out of water: Failing to recognize that extreme project management (and maybe any kind of project management) is not the job that best utilizes one's own natural talents and motivated strengths.

So if you�re in an extreme environment, be sure to examine your situation for these natural but dangerous modes of operation. If your eyes are inward, turn them outward to the customer and the business context and be strong. Extreme projects require extreme energy to drive the project toward the right business outcomes; but along with energy comes exhilaration from achieving and from growing personally into a strong, business-focused, highly valued project manager.

In part 5 of this series, I'll continue to highlight key topics for eXPM Critical Success Factor # 2: Leadership by Commitment.

Until the next time, keep the beat going.

eXtremely yours,

This article is excerpted from the book entitled The End of Project Management as We Know It: eXteme Project Management™ for Everyone, by Doug DeCarlo.

The author defines an extreme project as a complex, high-speed, self-correcting venture in search of a desirable result under conditions of high uncertainty, high change and high stress.

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