You can’t ride the London underground without hearing this directive repeated over and over.And I think about it a lot in my day-to-day work, because gaps in requirements are one of the biggest reasons that projects fail.

Recent research by McKinsey shows that, for large transformative projects, “only 37% of respondents report successful implementation.” Some run over budget, some run over time, some never get completed…

…and some are delivered on time and on budget, yet still don’t solve the problem they were intended to.

I had a client whose IT team pushed hard to deliver a project for the operations team.  A couple months later, in a meeting about a new project, the IT team learned that the reports they had scrambled to complete had never even been used.

They weren’t what the functional team needed. The reports didn’t address their underlying problem.

All that work and extra hours, with nothing gained. 

So how to prevent this kind of thing from happening to your project?

Identify and fill the gaps!

Here’s how:

  1. Keep stakeholders and sponsors fully engaged in the project from inception to delivery.
    • Missing stakeholders means missing perspectives and requirements — and sooner or later, that will have repercussions. 
    • Identifying stakeholders late in the implementation process often results in project delays and quality issues with the deliverables.
  1. Clearly define the strategy and desired outcomes of the project. To do so effectively, all stakeholder groups need to be included in these discussions. 
  2. Invite your stakeholders to your initial discovery meeting, where they can help you determine the project success criteria and the factors that will enable success.
  3. As you work through discovery, keep asking your team what other groups might be impacted and who else should be included. The earlier you find these additional stakeholders, they better off you’ll be.
  4. And before proceeding, ensure that project managers understand clearly: 
    • What is required to meet the project outcomes…
    • Who the stakeholders are and what their needs are…
    • And what expectations the project sponsor has.
  5. Project managers should also identify any gaps or areas that remain unclear — and attain clarity before proceeding.

All of this can be achieved by asking questions — lots and lots of questions.  

The better that leaders, managers, project managers and employees at every level understand the goals of the project and its underlying rationale, the better positioned they’ll be to guide it to a successful completion.


** McKinsey and Company. “How the implementation of organizational change is evolving.”

(5 Feb 2018). https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/mckinsey-implementation/our-insights/how-the-implementation-of-organizational-change-is-evolving

2 Comments. Leave new

  • Oscar Garcia
    July 18, 2020 10:41 pm

    Thanks for this article. Sometimes with all the things we, as project managers, have to do things get lost. It is always good to keep this in a To Do checklist and review these gaps daily, weekly or monthly depending on the project. Thanks for a great article!

    • Annmarie Curley
      July 28, 2020 1:45 pm

      Thanks Oscar, appreciate your feedback. Let me know if you have additional tips that you would add to the list.


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