Poly-Project Blindness

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 : Poly-Project Blindness
Scope : Behavioral pattern – Patterns that influence the behavior of an individual or team

In brief :
Team fails to recognise that a new project has unique characteristics that dictate the need for a different approach than prior projects.

Outline :
All projects are unique and although there are common characteristics different projects need to be managed in different ways.  Where a team fails to recognise the specific nature of the project in hand they run the risk of adopting processes that are poorly suited to that particular project.  The inability to see the differences between different projects or the implications of these differences is termed “poly-project blindness”

Poly-project blindness commonly occurs when a team or Project Manager moves from smaller projects to a much larger project or when moving to a project that is significantly different from prior experiences.

Typical sequence of events :

  1. Team is assigned a project that has significantly different characteristics from projects they have encountered before
  2. Team fails to recognize differences and handles the project using same techniques they have had success with on prior projects
  3. Processes team uses are poorly matched to the needs of the project resulting in errors, omissions and other related problems

Negative effects :

  1. Failure to appropriately manage one or more parts of the project
  2. Failure to recognise and manage risks
  3. Late breaking problems as a result of issues outlined above

Common Root Causes :

  1. Lack of situational awareness
  2. Insufficient training
  3. Lack of planning and due diligence at start of project 

Suggested Actions :

  1. Include time for dedicated planning sessions in which all team members can help flesh out the issues the project is likely to encounter
  2. Include more advanced training in training provided to project teams