John Cook, wrote a lovely post, Peter Drucker and abandoning projects, explaining how Drucker talks about abandoning projects. (John, thanks, I will definitely be referencing Drucker in the PPM book.)
I haven't been using the word “abandon” when I describe stopping projects. I've been using the word “Kill” and the concepts of permanently stopping projects (killing them) and putting projects on the parking lot (stopping them for now). John actually says the words from a developer's perspective:
It can be a tremendous relief to abandon a project.
He's right. It is a huge relief to stop working on a project.
Here's why I've been using the word “kill” instead of abandon. I want people to make a conscious decision that this project is not worth continuing at all. (The three possible decisions are commit to; kill; or transform a project.) Abandoning feels more like we can just stop the project in whatever state it's in and walk away from it.
But I don't know people who can do that. Every time I've seen managers attempt to abandon projects, the technical staff want to wrap things up, or get them to a state where the project can be shelved and restarted again later. That's why I separate the ideas of stopping a project for now (and putting the project on the parking lot) and killing the project.
Here's an example of why I feel so strongly about this. I was working for a small company as a developer many years ago. We were not making enough money. Management stopped a project “for a while” where the duration was indeterminate. Over lunch, I asked my boss when we would start it back up again. He said, “Never, with any luck.”
But that's not what was communicated to the technical staff. One developer said, “Well, management has abandoned this project. But I'm not. I'm going to save this project.” Ouch, not what management wanted and not what the company needed. The company needed us all on a project that could actually make money, not the money pit. But the other fellow thought that management had abandoned the project, not made a decision to stop it. If our management had considered the killing or parking of projects, maybe my colleague would not have continued working on a project that had no future and was diminishing the ability of the company to make money. We would have been in better shape if we had killed that project.
Maybe kill is too strong a word. But if we want to stop a project permanently, I do want to kill it. I don't want people doing skunk work on it. I don't want more investigation. I do want it killed. For me, abandon isn't a strong-enough word.
And, if we can't sufficiently fund this project now, I want to put the project on the parking lot, or somewhere in the unstaffed work list.
I hope you chime in with your reaction about abandon vs. kill.