The following entry is a part of the Pattern Library. The Pattern Library records the common patterns of events that have the potential to lead to project failure.

Name : Gravitation
Type : Behavioral pattern (patterns that influence the actions or conduct of an individual or team)

In brief :
People stay within their comfort zone while ignoring other aspects of the work needing to be done.

Outline :
We all have our comfort zones and the things we like to do.  These preferences draw us to the tasks we want to work on rather than those we don’t.  Many of us we have to make a conscious effort to take on the tasks we would rather not do.  Where teams or individuals fail to make that effort, critical tasks can go unattended.  The resulting gaps leave errors and omissions that remain undetected until they manifest themselves as problems later in the project.

Typical sequence of events :

  1. Familiar or preferred activities are completed first
  2. Less familiar or less preferable activities are ignored or addressed superficially
  3. Failure to address those activities can have many side effects depending on what issues are not being addressed.  In general gravitation leaves gaps in the project that allow errors and omissions to breed.

Negative effects :

  1. Late breaking issues and rework as effects of the gaps left by gravitation become apparent late in the project
  2. Other effects depend on the activities that are being ignored.

Common Root Causes :

  1. Personality type
  2. Failure to clearly establish roles fully allows people to define roles according to their own preferences
  3. The failure of the project’s leadership to monitor what is and what is not happening effectively.

Suggested Actions :

  1. Try to align staff with roles for which they are best suited
  2. Watch for gaps and consciously discuss the issues with the team rather than ignoring them
  3. Make sure roles are clearly defined and expectations clearly established.  Follow through on those expectations to keep them alive
  4. Provide team with appropriate training for all duties they are expected to perform.

Leave a Reply