Four Sure Fire Ways to Kill a Project and Maybe a Company

I’m not talking about a capital crime, of course, but in some cases it comes pretty close.  The mis-management of a project can spell disaster, especially in the world of accounting and finance.   If you have ever been involved in the conversion of an accounting system, think about how critical it was to get things done in a very definite sequence and on a tight schedule.  Missing a major deadline or activity is expensive because it usually delays subsequent activities and results in a myriad of cost penalties – direct and indirect.  Similarly, consider a situation where one company is thinking of acquiring or merging with another.  If the project that is commonly called “due diligence” is not carried out flawlessly, the result of the effort could lead to a bad decision and such decisions have literally killed many companies.

So, you may be wondering why a Chief Financial Officer is talking about projects in the first place.  Let me explain.   Throughout my finance career I have driven a lot of change for my employers and discovered that, over time, I was developing my skill as a project manager.  It’s an extremely useful skill for CFOs, and all C-level executives for that matter, because it embraces a proven methodology of getting complex things done quickly and efficiently.   Here a few examples of high profile projects I have led as a finance executive:

  • Consolidated multiple regional accounting centers into one national center
  • Coordinated and led corporate acquisitions and mergers
  • Prepared companies for external audits
  • Created new accounting and finance policies and procedures
  • Reviewed and streamlined internal processes to cut costs and improve quality
  • Converted accounting systems from one system to another
  • Raised working capital from investors and bankers

The list goes on but these are examples of what all CFOs do and they are all projects.  You can apply the same thinking to the work done by top executives for operations, marketing, HR, etc..  And, because these individuals are ultimately responsible for achieving the strategic goals of a company, they need to be well in tune with the art and science of project management because their success or failure will have a significant impact on the company, good or bad.  And, failure to achieve strategic goals will impact the valuation of the company – bad news for investors and owners.

So what are the four sure fire way to kill a project and possibly your company?  Here they are. . .

1) Don’t take the time to clearly define what it is you want to achieve up front.  If you don’t know what you want to achieve and share that with others then you will never get there.

2) Don’t recognize the unavoidable relationship between scope, resources, and the time frame in which a project must be completed.   If you want to add to the initial scope, then there will likely be consequences in terms of cost and/or the time it will take to complete the project.  Don’t recognize that fact and your project will fail.  Similarly, if you want to cut costs, the project will take longer or if you want to get it done sooner, it will cost more.

3)  Don’t define roles and relationships and don’t hold people accountable for peforming their assigned tasks on time.

4)  Don’t expect regular (weekly) feedback from project managers on the status of their assigned projects and don’t ask them to ask you for help when they need it.  In this case, ignorance of what’s happening on a project is definitely NOT bliss.

Of course, the ticket to success in achieving your company’s strategic goals is to recognize and embrace the science and methodogy of project management and do exactly the opposite of what I  described above. By doing so you will save time, money and possibly your company.


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