How to Bring Hidden Projects into the Open

Sometimes projects arise within organisations without being specifically planned as such. Perhaps someone has a good idea that should actually be applied company wide and not just in one department, or maybe a senior manager forces a change at the top without understanding all of the implementation work that will be needed within the organisation. Whenever I realise that there is a “submarine” project, I find the best course of action is to “surface” the project and clearly say “we have a project here, we need to treat it as such”. This may not always be popular with management, who will probably have to find resources for the project, so here are a few arguments for convincing them that it is better to have a project out in the open, with a team, stakeholders and a project manager.

Leadership and Accountability

Projects with good project management are more likely to succeed. Having a project manager adds a clear leadership role that must find ways to solve the many problems that fall between the natural responsibilities of the project team. And there is clear accountability for the project success too- if a hidden project fails, who is to blame?

Predictability, Risks and Transparency

Projects that don’t officially exist don’t have to report on their progress, schedule or costs. If Simon from marketing made a project plan during his coffee break but nobody is actually reporting their progress to him, why does management want to use it to predict when the project will end?

People are Working on it Anyway

Just because the project is not officially recognised as such, doesn’t mean that nobody is working on it. In fact it is precisely the problem that people are working on it but they don’t have the support and structure of a project environment and are probably booking their hours elsewhere. By keeping things as they are, management are unfairly burdening existing projects with other work and hindering visibility of what is happening within an organisation.

Its a Chance to Say No

Projects within organisations need support and stakeholders. If when trying to create the project it becomes clear that in fact many people are strongly against it, there is a clear chance to stop project and say “actually this is not a project we want”, whereas hidden projects can use their low profile to comfortably operate unnoticed or even against company aims and strategies.

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