5 Tips for Achieving Project Zen

October 29, 2015

We’ve written in the past about how good planning can help ensure that stakeholder feedback doesn’t derail your project. The “swoop and poop” as we referred to it, is a dramatic and painful way for a project to jump the rails.

But the origins of project delay or failure are varied—an assortment of unclear expectations, poor planning, and bad luck. Here are a few of the most common mistakes we see our clients make and some suggestions on how to avoid them

1. Unrealistic assessment of how long it will take to gather feedback

Optimism, I have always said, is the enemy of project management. If we agree to allot 2 days of client review for each deliverable into a project plan and it consistently takes a full week, the project is going to be delayed. Our antidote to this dilemma is to under promise and over deliver. Sounds simple, but it is really hard to make the mental shift to this mindset. Do yourself and your project team a favor and force yourself to assume that things won’t go smoothly. It is so much easier to move up a launch date than it is to push it out.

2. Underestimating the amount of time they will need to invest in the project

“Collaborative” is right there in our name for a reason. Please avoid the assumption that Crux Collaborative (or any other consultancy, for that matter) can go away after an initial meeting, do all the work, and show up with a finished product for you to review. We will need inputs and feedback from your team throughout the duration of the project—we bring user experience expertise, you bring knowledge of your business, customers, and priorities. If we can’t get those inputs and that feedback from you, the project will flounder.

3. Assigning a junior person or coordinator to take on more responsibility than they should

This is almost worse than number 2. It creates the false impression that we are getting the inputs and feedback that we need—except those inputs lack the experience, knowledge, and nuance that product owners and senior staff bring to the table. Unsurprisingly, the deliverables (when you do get a chance to review them) are off the mark and don’t reflect your vision.

4. Unclear definition of technical implementation roles and responsibilities

In this age of specialization, it is rare for one organization to conceive, plan, design, and develop an application or website. That means that deliverables should be tailored to specifications set by the team that will need to work with them next. It is often difficult to gain access to an IT or development resource early in the project, but the importance of their involvement can’t be overstated. We need them to review our approach and collaborate with us to ensure that we are not suggesting something that can’t be implemented.

5. Thinking of user research as “optional”

Usability research is a step in our design process and we suggest it on (almost) every project we work on. Sometimes clients see this as a “nice-to-have” and it is jettisoned in the name of budget restraint. This fits squarely into the penny-wise and pound foolish category. The purpose of this step is to uncover and resolve issues before the site or application is fully developed. When we skip this step, the problems that we uncover end up being experienced by your users. This leads to more frustration and a higher volume of calls into the call center. Additionally, fixing a problem after the site is fully developed is far more expensive than adjusting it beforehand.

Here at Crux Collaborative, we see ourselves as having two clients—the organizations that hire us and their users/customers. There are tensions inherent in this dichotomy and we’ve made (and continue to make) mistakes from time-to-time. It’s not always a straight line, but our process for developing complex interactive applications does anticipate a lot of the pitfalls and mitigate many of the risks. The process of getting from nothing to a fully launched product is the fun part. We genuinely enjoy working with our clients and collaborating to develop something exceptional for their users—something neither of us could possibly do alone.

By Gregg Harrison
Vice President

Gregg’s passion for all things digital started two decades ago as a project manager and has expanded over the years to include a focus on user experience consulting, client management, and operations.

View Gregg's Bio


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