How to Kill a Project Before it Kills You

and Survive to Tell it



By Edgardo Suáre

Air Liquide

Houston, Texas, USA



What happens when a project is raised out of very good reasons and intentions, but the timeline puts it in the midst of other major efforts that would come at the same time?

Are you as a project manager obliged to just run the project as directed? Or do you have the obligation to stop it if you see the risks to be high? Or at least, do you have the obligation to bring up the risks and let others decide?

What exactly is your obligation and how do you carry it out?

We will present a real case of one such project, one that had very good reasons to run and could provide great benefit, it had a deadline to complete (still several months away at the time of the discussions) and given other efforts and projects in the portfolio, it could have resulted in a major body of work at a very high risk that could derail not only this project but the others in the portfolio for the year.

We will present and describe details of the problem project and surrounding context (what other projects and events were in the horizon), how this project was getting coordinated and worked, and the reasons why it was believed to be creating high risks.

We will then describe what actions were taken to best determine if risks were really present, provide quantitative and qualitative data and raise awareness, and ultimately the specific action/s used to help define recommend a direction and a decision to continue or not, and the alternatives provided.

Keywords: project management, project risk, project portfolio, manager duties, manager responsibility, corporate culture

JEL code: M150, M140


This paper describes a practical and real life case. It is however anchored in the PMBoK methodology and practical project management practice best practices as well as taking into account the cultural and financial aspects of the organization various stakeholders across various countries and continents.

The case involves a project started to migrate from a data centre into another from the same provider, which was initiated with considerable delay and which at a later point was used to “piggyback” a much larger project to consolidate data centres.

Many of the assumptions initially taken were proven to be incorrect and/or in conflict with the deadlines and timelines in discussion. A major issue was that the lack of consideration of the portfolio of projects and other potential events for the following months and year.

In the opinion of the enterprise architect, the risk of such a project (the consolidation of data centres) was too large to undertake and thus he communicated same to the hub CIO for further discussion and to raise it to a higher level.

Documentation as to the risks and costs, as well as a more sensible alternative were prepared and presented and ultimately, the consolidation project was hold for another time and only the original data centre migration was approved.

Some projects look great in paper, and a more formalized analysis with factual data can result in an entire different outlook.

This paper attempts to describe the dilemma of a PM as to whether he/she blindly runs a project or brings up the risks to stop it before it causes harm to the organization carrying it. With a smaller project, the PM would have a lower level of difficulty in steering to the right direction, the high stakes and visibility on the project we are presenting defines a different dynamic altogether.

We will present and discuss such a case inclusive to the details surrounding the state of affairs within the organization and considerations leading to the decision to hold…


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Second Editions are previously published papers that have continued relevance in today’s project management world, or which were originally published in conference proceedings or in a language other than English.  Original publication acknowledged; authors retain copyright.  This paper was originally presented at the most recent Scientific Conference on Project Management in the Baltic States at the University of Latvia in Riga in April 2018.  It is republished here with the permission of the authors and conference organizers

How to cite this paper: Suárez, E. T. (2018). How to Kill a Project Before it Kills You, and Survive to Tell it; Proceedings of the 7th Scientific Conference on Project Management in the Baltic States, University of Latvia, Riga, Latvia, April 2018; republished in the PM World Journal, Vol. VII, Issue IX – September.  Available online at https://pmworldjournal.net/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/pmwj74-Sep2018-Suarez-how-to-kill-a-project-before-it-kills-you.pdf


About the Author

Edgardo Suárez

Houston, TX, USA




Edgardo Suárez has been since 2013 the Chief IT Architect Americas with Air Liquide based in Houston USA. Before and from 2003 to 2013 was Sr. Enterprise Architect with Sysco Foods in Houston USA. Prior to that had several technical and strategic roles in various other organizations.

He has more than 25 years of international experience in business transformations, information systems, process automation, process re-engineering and strategic planning, more than 15 years’ experience in supply chain and project management as well as enterprise architecture in various organizations in the US and South America.

Some of his international speaking invitations are: PMI Global Conference, South America 2009 to 2016, ICEX Intellectual Capital Exchange, USA – 2010 and 2015; SAP Sapphire, USA – 2012; Oil and Gas SAG Symposium, Germany – 2013; EAC-Enterprise Architecture Conference Europe, UK – 2015;  10th ECISM-European Conference in Information System Management, Portugal – 2016; 7th International Scientific Conference on Project Management in the Baltic Countries, Latvia – 2018

Mr Suárez can be contacted at [email protected]