5 reasons to squash a project

Ending a project is not something to take lightly, but there are circumstances where it may become necessary.

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Have you ever heard the adage about throwing good money after bad money? This holds true for projects as well. Investing more money, time, and resources into something that you know will likely be wasted is a bad idea. 

Here are five good reasons to squash a project or at least put it on hold.  

SEE: Project prioritization tool: An automated workbook (Tech Pro Research)

  1. The client's needs changed

This is one of the more obvious reasons to cancel a project. Sometimes in the middle of the project, your client may experience changes to their operations, decide they want to head in a new direction or  discover that the current project will not yield the desired outcome. This prompts the need to cancel an existing project or at least place it on hold temporarily until there is sufficient time to reevaluate circumstances. Choosing to continue with a project just because money and time were invested is not a good move if it no longer meets a client's needs.

2. A project puts into question your professionalism and credibility

This may not be a common scenario, but there may be a time when you as a project management professional (PMP) may be asked to do things in the course of a project that risks your professionalism or credibility. In this case, it is best not to proceed with that project or company if it puts your career at risk. If this is something you encounter midstream, choose to be upfront and opt out. Remain accountable to yourself and your profession. Avoid making the mistake of proceeding as this may very well become a career-ending project.

3. Continuing will put stakeholders in jeopardy

Whether physically or otherwise, a project may put stakeholders at risk of harm in one form or another. If this is the case, you may be faced with one of two decisions, proceed and be part of the problem or halt a project and communicate the risks. Your first step will be to notify sponsors that one or more stakeholders could be put at risk. If you have done this and despite your efforts, the sponsor or company chooses to proceed, it becomes necessary to inform them of your intent to leave the project. If the risk to stakeholders is likely and moderate to severe (especially if their safety or health may be compromised) you have a responsibility to formally notify any necessary parties of the potential risks.

SEE: Quick glossary: Project management (Tech Pro Research)

4. More critical or time-sensitive projects have arisen

There will be times when a project has been initiated and at some point during execution circumstances change, causing a more time-sensitive project to take precedence. Depending on those circumstances, you may need to cancel the current project or simply shelve it until a later point. The new project could be time sensitive due to the new business development, changes in the marketplace, financial restrictions, or a host of other factors. Choosing to proceed with the old project regardless of the changes in conditions is likely to jeopardize resources and company-wide goals.

5. New regulatory changes impact project progression

Regulatory, legal, or tax-related hurdles may trigger anything from minor changes to an entire project cancellation altogether. When these types of hurdles crop up the best course of action is to pause and evaluate the changes to determine the impact before defaulting to canceling a project. Remember to involve all of the necessary stakeholders as well as change management experts. This helps you to identify all of the areas that may be impacted by the changes before making any final decisions.

The only thing worse than wasting resources half-way through a project is continuing to waste resources and time after determining your client's needs have changed, your credibility or stakeholders are at risk, more time-sensitive projects exist, or regulatory changes will impact the outcome. Weigh your options carefully before deciding and make sure to involve sponsors and key stakeholders in discussions before cutting the cord. 

Also see

Close-up hand Stamping CANCEL on paper sheet with red Ink pad(box) against white background.

Image: Getty Images/iStockphoto

By Moira Alexander

Moira Alexander is the Founder of PMWorld 360 Magazine and Lead-Her-Ship Group, and a project management and digital workplace columnist for various publications. Moira has 20+ years in business (IS&T) and project management for small to large busine...