Posted by: ahmedashfaque | August 31, 2014

Project management – some insights 1

At a conference I was asked why it is difficult to trace back failures on any project? I pondered over the question. Tracing back failures has only one use: to add to the lessons learnt on any project. This kind of learning makes sure that the same mistakes are not repeated on future projects. At the same time, it is unlikely that exactly similar project will come in the future. As the nature of projects go; each project is different from other projects. So if making effort to trace back failures makes any sense?

Well, first of all it should be clear in our mind that traceability is something which is difficult to achieve on projects. The reason is simple. If events or a chain of events can be replicated again and again then it is simple to record each and every activity and it is possible to enact those events again and again as if a replay is going on. Traceability of any event in the chain of events will be easy. The expected results will be more or less accurate.

But projects are different. Many people say they are currently working on a challenging project. What they mean by challenging? It means that there are many work products on the project which are being done for the first time and there is no history from where people can learn as how to do the job. In those situations, people try to find out if similar work has been done previously. If so then people try to articulate as to how to do their present task in hand. So there will be some learning involved. Some trial and error will also be involved. Smart people find out the solution faster and they are able to do their task.

But the question of traceability still persists for other tasks on the project which can be categorized as regular work. In those tasks, mistakes are not expected and should not be tolerated either. If any mistakes happen then traceability should be available to find out where the mistake took place.

So why traceability is difficult on projects? The most common cause of not having a traceability is that on most projects, people avoid doing documentation. Off course, too much documentation is also bad. it hampers productivity. But not having a good enough documentation is not acceptable.  it should never happen that at project meetings, people do not have answers to why something has gone wrong. There must be a definite answer to this question. After all, even on those so called challenging projects almost 90% of the tasks are regular work.


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