Firms often have obvious misallocations of resources, where individuals in the firm can clearly recognize the issues and workable solutions but the problems remain unhandled. Valuable resources are often wasted on these endeavors that are simply stagnant or may have never started with a little further consideration.

Not all projects add value and like all activities performed by people; they present the opportunity for both positive and negative usage of budget and resources.

Every organization has projects that stall. Figuring out how to avoid this is one of the critical issues in project management, but given that projects stall for a number of reasons -- lack of purpose, lack of focus, or resource issues -- it isn’t easy. But you can learn from the mistakes of others. In this case, you can learn from the U.S. government.

As reported by the Washington Post, the government is currently paying a contractor nearly $80,000 a year to fund the Aero Martí airplane. The plane – kitted out with a variety of antennae off its tail -- was part of a late-‘80s propaganda project designed to broadcast uncensored (read: non-Communist) TV news and programming into Cuba. This had previously been attempted through regular broadcast equipment and antennae (Cuba was too far over the horizon from Florida for this to be functional) and antennae mounted to blimps (kept getting blown into the Everglades).

The plane, in contrast, actually worked. It worked for about 20 minutes in 2006, until regular Cuban programming inadvertently blocked the signal. Still, the project continued broadcasting TV programming that no one could or chose to watch until this year, when budget cuts became the issue. Killing the plane program was somehow off the board. Despite having a viewership of less than 1% and costing more than $32 million, or $12,000 a day, since 2006, it was untouchable. It was a personal project to a few congressmen who fought doggedly for it. When sequestration hit, the project’s funding was cut, but not completely. So instead, it sits. Having accomplished nothing in its nearly seven years of existence, it sits; drawing enough money to exist, but not enough to function.

So as you sit there wondering “my tax dollars are paying for this?” stop and look at your own company’s ledger. How many unproductive projects is your company keeping alive, and how many projects have zero chance to succeed because they are in an under-funded purgatory? How did these projects originate in the first place? And how many personal and financial resources is your organization wasting with them?

The solution to issues like this is simple. The Aero Marti produced no measurable results and survives due to ego. Egos, and pet projects, have no place in a modern organization. In other instances, when a project isn’t living up to expectations, management should review why it is coming up short. If, like the Marti, it is funded enough to exist, but not to perform, reevaluate. If it is worth saving, it is worth funding fully.

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