Project Practitioners > 5 Steps To Recovering Your Project Sanity

5 Steps To Recovering Your Project Sanity

By Josh Nankivel
why tony had just finished a year-long project, and was exhausted. As a good project manager should, he had been keeping a lessons learned file throughout the project, and now that it was completed he was making a final entry, looking back over the whole year. Let's peek into one of the lessons learned Tony and his team picked for this particular project, and how they got to the root cause by asking a simple question. Why?

Symptom: The project had gone through several "re-scoping" activities during the seemed as if the goals were always changing.

Why was the scope always changing? Because the direction and needs of the customer changed throughout the year, and we responded to those changes.

Why did we receive different direction at different times? Because a different individual customer was giving the direction at different times.

Why did the individual customer who was giving us direction change? Because we didn't have a clear idea of who was responsible for which area of scope.

Why didn't we have a clear idea of who was responsible for which area of scope? Because we didn't push the customer to agree on a responsibility matrix for their own people; we only did this for our own team.

Why didn't we push for a responsibility matrix including the customer staff? Because we did not include the customer as an integral part of the project team. We focused too much on our own team as the performing organization, and not enough on the external stakeholders.

Lesson Learned: Always require a clear responsibility matrix, including decision authority, for the whole project team, including the customer's staff!

Do you have an example how the 5 Why's technique was (or could be) used to uncover the root causes in your projects? Leave a comment below and share your experience!

Who Is Josh Nankivel? I am the founder of, a site dedicated to helping new and aspiring project managers succeed.

Learn more about project manager careers right now with my free eBook and newsletter!

Photo attribution: Why - by annnna via Flickr

Related Links
The 5 Whys is one of several tools and techniques described in this problem solving guideline. We like this Responsibility Allocation Matrix for its detailed, role-focused approach.

Not all comments are posted. Posted comments are subject to editing for clarity and length.

The responsibilty matrix is one of my favorite tools. In some cases, the customer has no idea that there are expectations for them to complete work and they are caught off-guard when we make demands. Making this known from the beginning can really go a long way towards project success and buy-in.

Post a comment

(Not displayed with comment.)

©Copyright 2000-2017 Emprend, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
About us   Site Map   View current sponsorship opportunities (PDF)
Contact us for more information or e-mail
Terms of Service and Privacy Policy

Stay Connected
Get our latest content delivered to your inbox, every other week. New case studies, articles, templates, online courses, and more. Check out our Newsletter Archive for past issues. Sign Up Now

Follow Us!
Linked In Facebook Twitter RSS Feeds

Got a Question?
Drop us an email or call us toll free:
7am-5pm Pacific
Monday - Friday
We'd love to talk to you.

Learn more about ProjectConnections and who writes our content. Want to learn more? Compare our membership levels.