Making The Cut

Here's How A Project Management Office Can Minimize Stakeholder Backlash When Projects Are Killed

By Abid Mustafa

Sometimes there's no way around it: The executive project management office (EPMO) has to recommend to the C-suite a certain number of projects to kill. These recommendations might be based on factors such as poor strategic alignment, huge delays in project completion, changes in the business plan, unexpected market trends, regulatory edicts and the launch of new projects. Whatever the reason, it is of paramount importance for the EPMO to establish a well-crafted project portfolio management process to support any cull.

All stakeholders across the organization must buy in to the standard used to govern the termination of projects, lest disputes undermine the activity. A prudent EPMO employs the same standards used in selecting projects. This ensures stakeholders are not taken by surprise when their project is marked for termination. The EPMO also should maintain a kill scorecard and routinely inform project sponsors and stakeholders about the probability of their projects dying. This scorecard has many indicators, but strategic alignment and benefits realization are the most important.

A good kill scorecard is just one piece in the EPMO toolkit.

To determine the level of alignment and realization, EPMO staffers should examine drivers such as revenue, growth, customer experience, efficiency and cost reduction. (For the purpose of this article, other indicators such as budgets and allocated resources are not considered.) The EPMO must work out an appropriate scoring mechanism that applies equally well to projects in all domains: corporate, sales, marketing, human resources, finance, operations and IT.

Consider plotting projects along two axes representing strategic alignment and benefits realization, like this:


Projects in zone 1 will be killed; projects in zone 4 won't. Those in zones 2 and 3 have to be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. Effectively maintaining a kill scorecard minimizes unnecessary lobbying, protracted discussions and the wasting of executives’ time.

A good kill scorecard is just one piece in the EPMO toolkit. Its success is driven by a robust project portfolio management culture embedded within the organization. The EPMO, in conjunction with the C-suite, must ensure that this culture is adopted and taken seriously. Once projects have been killed, the EPMO should convene a lessons-learned exercise to analyze why projects have failed and what areas can be improved. PM

img Abid Mustafa has worked with project management offices for 10 years. His book In the Age of Turbulence: How to Make Executive PMOs Successful is available in paperback and on Kindle.



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