The Seven Deadly Sins of Project Management: End-Date Driven Schedules

Organisations can turn strategy into action with project management. Many projects fail to achieve their goals despite increasing investment in capabilities.
This fourth article in a series examines how end-date driven scheduling can be hugely inefficient on precious resources. It is one of the “seven deadly sins”, originally coined in Jeffrey Pinto’s paper ‘Lies damned lies and project plans’.
Skarbek is known for jumping into critical situations, where clients’ key projects are in danger and the blame game has begun.
Is there any malpractice in project management or are there environmental factors that led to failure such as lack of commitment, sponsorship, engagement, and/or funding?
Pinto’s seven deadly Sins offer some insight for project managers who are quick to point out that their projects were well managed, but that external factors conspired against them. These insights can make it question whether the profession really got it right.
Pinto also calls out the fourth sin, which is the imposition or synchronization of end-date driven calendars.
Trade launch windows or contractual penalties can drive teams into the ‘death marches’ we discussed in our last article.
The top-down date is often set without considering resourcing. This can lead to demotivating behavior from the beginning. It assumes the project is feasible.
It creates a conflict between proper planning and risk management, scoping, and the imperative that key steps be taken and quality checked to meet the deadline. Pinto says that this approach is too often ineffective.
We depart from Pinto’s critique here, as we feel the need to draw more on our empathy for the situation our clients are in and the pressures they face.
Multinational project managers are more than just administrators. They have the same responsibility as a marketing director or finance VP to understand the context of the business and act as if the business is theirs.
This context does not require project management in another building. New briefs are sent through the mail.
Project managers must understand and manage the business context before they can start a project. We have found that engagement and proactivity work best when you use the following forms:
You can make a habit of looking for projects even when you’re busy. It will pay off in death marches avoided.
Time is the only non-renewable resource. So be aware of when to invite submissions based on the larger annual calendar of market and business activities.
Establish your project harvesting process, forums, and a strong rhythm that pre-conditions people to the lead time and windows for certain activities they might be interested in initiating.
You must be prepared to fight for resources if the end-driven schedule falls through. This means that you must accept compromises in quality and likelihood of success.
This shows that portfolio management skills are an important adjunct to project management. We often see serious pain when portfolio management is separated from project management.
We interviewed a former project and portfolio director, who had left a strong legacy of delivery capabilities and shared one secret to his success.
She stated that she kept her portfolio managers real’ by having them each handle one project in addition to portfolio work. She also said that they rarely got caught up in unanticipated, end-driven surprises.