Symptoms of Project Proliferation

The project proliferation disease is spreading fast. Top management wants to get a lot done, now—and others don't hesitate to throw additional "high-priority" projects into the hopper. Corporate executives may not make the connection between project glut and its depleting side effects; they only know that employee morale is low and project delivery dates are chronically late.

The wear and tear of project proliferation in an organization may be characterized by these other symptoms as well:

• Rising overhead and increasing complexity

• Slow cycle time on getting new products from idea to launch

• Uneven (start-and-stop) project activity

• Overwhelmed and overtasked project managers

• Lengthy and unproductive project review meetings

• A perpetual scarcity of project resources, with senior management time wasted in disputes between project managers and resource managers

• Frustration among project participants over the lack of project results

• Executive concerns about the organization's ability to deliver on critical new projects

A look beyond the symptoms reveals the root causes of the proliferation syndrome: an informal or inadequate process for initiating projects; unfocused or "moving-target" project priorities; and inconsistent or poorly executed project planning, resource allocation, and implementation.

The truth is that any organization's resources are limited. One way or another, only certain projects will get done. The choice is whether this happens arbitrarily or deliberately.

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