The three stages of a project

We are very fond of our acronyms in the land of project management. Handily, they may be adopted from other areas of life. Obviously, I have never worked on any project like this at all, not once, never, ever. At all. In fact this is pure fantasy concocted by idly wondering what projects the exact opposite of mine would be like.

1. WTF

This is when the latest, most brilliant idea has just crash landed from senior management, scrawled on the back of a fag packet, and must be executed in at least half the time anyone thinks is vaguely realistic, if not sooner or the world will end! Amid the localised epidemic of hysteria there is no time for planning, scoping, clarification or communication, the project must just get going because it’s essential it meets the plucked-from-the air deadline or the world will end! 


About halfway through, the full ramifications of the entire lack of planning, scoping, clarification or communication are beginning to make themselves seen. The grumbling and finger pointing has started as the preliminary rounds in the blame shifting tournament get underway. The project is still going full steam ahead, even though no one actually knows what the end result is supposed to be. All holiday has been cancelled, the number of meetings has increased in direct proportion to the level of panic and because everyone spends all their time in meetings worrying that the world will end!, very little work is happening. It would be a better use of money simply to set fire to high denomination currency notes at this point.


Crisis. The deadline is looming, the costs have rocketed. The project has been de-scoped to the point where not only has the baby been thrown out with the bath water but the entire bathroom has been demolished. There’s still no way that this project will happen on time. The project team consists of gaunt, hollow-eyed wraiths on whom caffeine no longer has any effect. Finally, one of the wraiths whispers ‘We can’t make the deadline.’ In the hush that follows, someone from another department, who is just dropping by to pick over the remains of the sandwiches from the working lunch, says brightly ‘Oh, that’s ok, didn’t you hear? Your project has been delayed by 8 months, Project Y took priority.’

The world does not end.

Author: musingsfromthesofa

I've run out of books. Again.

8 thoughts on “The three stages of a project”

  1. TWDNE — or, if you’d like to make that into a word you can say, “tweedle-ne” It means, “the world will not end”. And, indeed it does not. Thanks for that reminder.

  2. Hehe – 6 months of trying to pull tenders together for BDMs (not just project managers who can use ackronyms y’know) was enough to let me know I want to be as far away from deadlined projects as possible. Deadlines seem so reasonable until somoen else has to get involved, goes on a jag of meetings and refuse to return email.

  3. Lily – I like Tweedlene. It’s a good word.

    Jodie – I think you have nailed the problem with projects. It’s the Other People. This is why a PhD seems so alluring. There are no Other People involved. Or if there are, they probably died years ago and so have a valid excuse for not answering email.

    ZM – Somehow, I knew you would not recognise these scenarios at all.

  4. A colleague of mine on a recent project coined what may just be the perfect word to describe most projects: Calamaf**k. Because, you know, it’s always a calamity, and it’s always totally f’d up. And, as he pointed out, a clusterf*** just sounds like it might possibly be fun for someone.

  5. I’d like to propose a slightly different structure to the stages:
    1. Enthusiasm
    2. Disillusionment
    3. Panic
    4. Search for the guilty
    5. Punishment of the innocent
    6. Praise and honours for the non-participants

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