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  • Writer's picturePer Lindstedt

Bureaucratic Projects - The career killers

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Bureaucratic projects are - almost impossible to get going and absolutely impossible to terminate.

A bureaucratic project is usually a stinker - the business case is made-up, the product specification surrealistic, and the time plan a projection of unrealistic optimism. Despite that, the project passes the Gates with flying colors. How could it happen?

Maybe it was the first time anyone filled out the complicated project application form in the right way. In the world of bureaucracy, such a significant achievement shouldn't go unnoticed. The gate accessors got so exhilarated that checking the deliverables and numbers was forgotten in the euphoria. Now the project has momentum, and killing an already approved project is not a viable option as it will hamper company metrics.

In my long career, I have a few times been contacted by newly appointed project managers of bureaucratic projects. They have been placed between a rock and a hard place and saw no way out of the situation. They realized the project should never have been started, and now they are trying to terminate it. Terminate the project in a way that will not hamper further career moves. Especially upwards.

As an outsider, is it easy to come up with excellent pieces of advice for them:

  • Go to the project's sponsor and tell them the truth – The reply, "I tried, and it didn't work."

  • Promote somebody else eager to become a project manager as a better candidate and step down – The reply, "I tried, and it didn't work."

  • Make yourself irreplaceable in some other and more important project and claim you have to prioritize that project in the interest of the company – The reply, "I tried, and it didn't work."

At the same pace, as I run out of great and brilliant ideas, these newly appointed project managers run out of steam. So don't underestimate the difficulties of terminating bureaucratic projects.

They have momentum because influential people have invested their credibility in the projects. Unfortunately, your only viable strategy to avoid killing your career is to hide in the shadows until people forget that the project ever existed.


Per & Ulf

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