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Part I: A Project Manager’s Foe

The Problem

In recent days I found myself dusting off project management books and reading through multiple articles to better understand why there is much chaos and fire fighting on our projects. Tom Kendrick, an author and risk management expert, reported that scope changes, staffing, poor estimates, schedule delays, defects, and lack of funds are the main risks to project failure. (2015). As I take personal inventory of the issues I’ve encountered throughout my 18-yr career in project management and what my colleagues have faced, I have to agree with Mr. Kendrick’s assessment.

However, I can’t help but notice that even with all the history, expert studies, personal experience, and suggested risk management methodologies, chaos and fire fighting seem to have no end, no matter where we turn. Given our situation, I took the liberty to conduct a series of analyses. These analyses took me beyond the superficial issues previously reported and . . . the results?!? The results brought forth the elephant in the room: lack of accountability!

The Analysis

Let’s run through a few problems using a 5-Why analysis tool to show how I came to such a conclusion. The example problems being: 1) product defects 2) constant follow up and 3) scope gap.

Notice no matter what problem I pose, the underlying cause points to lack of accountability. When we give excuses, we are not holding ourselves accountable. When we point fingers or say we don’t know how to do something, we are not holding ourselves accountable. Interestingly enough these same root causes are behaviors found on an old age management tool called the Accountability Ladder. It seems we’re now headed in the right direction knowing we have an accountability challenge on our hands, and additional tools at our disposal. Stop by next week as we explore the Accountability Ladder.

Until then, what do you think is the root cause of project chaos and firefighting?


Kendrick, T. (2015). Identifying and managing project risks: Essential tools for failure-proofing your project. New York: AMACOM.