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Our heydays were over. Our world changing product that had carried us for years was getting old and out of date. Our competitors were being more innovative and producing sexier products than we were — and we had been the ones known as having the edgy new products. We were rapidly losing market share and company stock value.

How Not To Lose Our Way When Projects Go BadWe were never very good at delivering our products on time and working well. We generally tried to show up with the new product on time, but it was always buggy and we had to keep taking it back to work on it some more. It became normal to have an extended “here, try it now” cycle that went on for months. However, we had the killer products that everyone wanted so it was not a big deal that we were late and buggy.

We did have a major breakthrough during this period. Our team had delivered our newest, hopefully edgiest, product on time and with good quality. The quality was so good that derivative products built on these same lines would be on time and with good quality in the future. We were getting unsolicited recognition from our biggest customers for finally getting our act together and delivering projects when we say we would. The problem was our “edgy” product was not a hit with consumers. We had finally gotten the engineering and project management right, but unfortunately the product and the product line were just OK, but not a big hit. Plus, the economy was going into recession and that was making business even more challenging.

We got anxious. We needed the next new product line to get out the door as fast as possible. We needed the revenue and we needed to see if the next product was the world shaker that would save us. We were so anxious that we forgot all about the great engineering and management practices we had achieved. Instead we reverted back to the promise of great new products in no time at all. Of course we missed all those dates and cancelled half our products. We were back to mediocre products, mediocre engineering and mediocre project, product, and portfolio management. Disaster.

Most long term success is based upon doing the basics well. We should not lose track of the good things our teams do when we are managing through the tough times (or the good times, for more see project management pockets of excellence). Make sure we know what it is we do well, and what we don’t do well, so we don’t discard our best practices when scrambling to stay afloat.

Thank you for sharing!