The new Berlin Brandenburg Airport became operational in May 2020. This painful project was almost a decade late and four times more expensive than originally budgeted.
In hindsight, this massive project failed because the preparation and design phase were too linear and too fast, causing massive problems in project execution.
Unnecessary project failures unfortunately happen too often.
The antidote to prevent project failure is to insist on doing a thorough Front End Loading (FEL).
If you want to set-up an effective FEL, gather all stakeholders and discuss:
- What does project success look like? Define what success is, but also define what it isn’t. For example, if your project is about building a new factory, marketing the product (output of the factory) may not be part of the scope.
- Which aspects need to be considered to achieve success? Engage the group in a free flow brainstorm to capture all issues which need to be taken into account in executing the project. Use a pre-prepared checklist to be complete.
- Which assumptions are critical for the success of the project?
- When does the project need to abandoned? Criteria for project abortion are budget overrun, change of critical assumptions, etc. This avoids the sunk cost fallacy: A doomed initiative often will not be stopped, because a lot of time, money, and reputation has already been invested.
The FEL input will serve as an excellent basis for a solid project plan to ensure smooth execution.
A carpenter knows something which many project managers have forgotten: Measure twice, cut once….