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Myth: Loser Projects are for Losers August 26, 2009

Posted by Corporate Sleuth in New, Thrive.
Tags: , , , , ,

Losing Project – the Perfect Place to Advance Your Career?

Work smart......or Perish.

Work smart......or Perish.

Every company, at least in one point of its existence, has had that black hole of a project or contract that seems to suck all profits and resources out of the company, or at the very mention of its name, people wince and say thank heavens they weren’t assigned to that crappy project!

Well, I want you to think about the promising possibilities of being on that project.  Yes, you read that correctly, the PROMISING possibilities. What is the worst that can happen when you put yourself into a “no win” scenario? You meet your expectation and don’t win? Well the opposite can be true, and show your true value and potential to your company.  Here are a few thoughts on volunteering or being “stuck” managing a losing project…….

Unpopular projects or projects with bad track records and reputations can be a good place to demonstrate your abilities an offer a platform for career advancement.

  • Know the best case  / worst case scenarios, and present them to the senior management prior to starting the project.  Let them know that you will do everything possible to achieve the best case scenario, but under the circumstances you are starting with a handicap and it will be a challenge to overcome.
  • Tout the small improvements or accomplishments early and often, and the set backs even earlier and more often! A losing project will not promote itself or even draw even the least bit of favorable attention, so you must be willing to do it.  Weekly status reports may be the answer.  If they are already being done, maybe daily recaps are needed.  Bottom line, you must promote your accomplishments or else they will be lost.
  • Advancement opportunity: Have you bees assistant team lead on projects and jsut can’t catch a break to run your own project?  Well this type of project doesn’t have a lot of competition to run, so it may be the shot you are looking for to prove your abilities and get that Project Manager title, or lead team member status. If there is little competition, and the rationale is that no one wants the project, you can step up as the “team” player, and let management know you are serious about your career.
  • Focus on the job, not the results.  If the project is a losing effort, you obviously cannot point to its profitability or other success measures to quantify your efforts.  However, you can measure your success by the improvements you make.  Maybe you make it less unprofitable, or bring in more team members as you increase project morale.  Or maybe it is in the way that you improve communications amongst the team, clients, or participants that gets noticed.  You need to find that special factor that you do well and promote that fact.

Caution: Do not fall victim of being the scape goat! As a new manager or even as an experienced one, if you take on a losing project to demonstrate your company loyalty and ambition, be careful not to get blamed for the project’s poor or unprofitable outcome.  Sad to say, but plenty of people above you will shift blame if they get backed into a corner, and you need to be able to defend yourself. The best way to do this is through proper communications, frequent status reports, and organized documentation.

Summary: Overall, unpopular projects or projects with bad track records can be a good place to demonstrate your abilities an offer a platform for career advancement.  You must be willing and able to do the work, and avoid the pitfalls associated with the project, but this can be done relatively easily through proper communications and self promotion.  If you are looking for opportunities, do not rule out any project based on its reputation,  as the worst project available, may just provide the best opportunity for you in the long run.

Until the next post, keep your eyes out for the next promotion opportuniy, no one else is looking for it for you! The Corporate Sleuth



1. AffiliateGeek - August 26, 2009

Nice blog post. Yes… I know all about unwanted and failing projects. Should be an open door to opportunity. Real tough to stay positive sometimes.

This post was a nice reminder of why thinking positively about unpopular projects is a necessity for survival in the world of project management. There is always an opportunity to learn something new. Thanks!

2. iammarchhare - August 26, 2009

One thing about the troubled project is that you usually can only go up from there.

Corporate Sleuth - August 27, 2009

Great point – I did leave that out, but it is true. Part of the win / win situation of taking over a black hole project is just that, there is nowhere to go but up! Thanks for the feedback!

3. Taking Over the Loser Project « Random Acts of IT Project Management - August 27, 2009

[…] The Corporate Sleuth over at the Survive and Thrive in the Corporate World blog posted “Myth: Loser Projects are for Losers“.  The author makes a decent case that the “black hole” projects give you a […]

4. PM Hut - August 27, 2009

This concept applies across the board, if you’re involved with losers (those losers can be colleagues, projects, etc..) and you show success, then you have definitely proved your worthiness. I was going to mention the scapegoat thing as I’ve seen it a lot. The thing is if a manager involves a weak PM in a project, it’s very easy for that manager to shift the blame, after all, upper management is not fully aware of the PM’s weak skills.

IMO, the blame always is thrown on the weaker (a good article on the subject is mistakes and the blame game)

There’s another thing to be aware of, is that if you prove that you’re successful, someone might steal your success, while giving you very little credit: “Yes I assigned Jim on this one because I thought he had the skills and I was micromanaging him all the time, thankfully we made it. Next time I’m going to try this strategy with someone else”.

Corporate Sleuth - August 27, 2009

Thanks for the feedback, great points. Hopefully if you promote yourself and keep communications consistent and wide reaching during your successes, upper management will recognize your efforts as your own, and eventually the success stealers are revealed. Especially when they do try to adapt your style in the future without you, and they fail! Thanks for the comment.

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