So, for the third time in my entire 25+ year career as a project/program manager (a career that has spanned easily over a hundred individual projects and over a dozen major programs) I have had a project/program “mothballed” instead of deploying.

Project plan

This is only the second time it has been a project I expected to actually deploy. The first time I had a project that “failed” it was due to a corporate buyout and the new ownership forced every organizational division to scale all development back except their “top five”. Because one of my projects at that time was a pilot project not only for new technology but also for a new process (The Rational Unified Process, which by then I had grown to hate) it was summarily axed without so much as an “archive it all off in case we revive it later”. I had another project at that time that did survive, so I at least kept my job.

The second time it was a project that everyone knew was doomed to be canceled because it was clearly politically unacceptable to one of the major parts of the overall organization, plus it very probably ran afoul of some very important corporate policies, including some mandated by the government. The CTO still wanted it to be pushed forward and he and I acknowledged that it was highly unlikely to succeed but he had to demonstrate that he had explored every avenue. So for five months I fought every internal bureaucracy in the company and was eventually stymied by the Legal Department over the enormous complexity of literally thousands of client contracts, some 30% of which would have to be renegotiated for the project to succeed. So I don’t feel bad about that one at all.

But this time it’s more like a typical corporate failure, which really bugs me because I had so far throughout my career managed to avoid projects/programs like that, mostly deliberately. And I had thought this one would not fall prey to corporate politics, but bet on the wrong horse for the first time in my career.

See, the program was the pet program of the CEO of the company. It was a process intensive program with very little technical risk. The principals in the program were all people I had worked with before and whom I knew were competent. The CTO and the Global Product Development EVP were also fully on board, so three of the top five people in the company were pushing it.

Seemed pretty solid footing to me.

And we got it to the very edge of deployment. Last week we were literally on our final round of System Testing and had already completed a chunk of User Acceptance Testing. All signs were go.

Then the CEO retired for “health reasons”.

Ouch. We all sort of took a deep breath then, but the CTO and GPD guys were still there, so we continued on.

A few days later both of them “quit” to “pursue other career options.”

And last Tuesday our program was put on “indefinite hold”.

So close. Sooooo close.

Oh well, onward we go.

(Minor editorial note. The project schedule/plan image is a generic one I pulled off of google. I could not post an actual plan from our actual project without violating corporate policies.)