Project failure and NOW to avoid it
The title is a mistype, but I like it – urgency is often missing in projects, and we all know the sooner you tackle a problem, the sooner it’s resolved and the less it costs.
Most enterprises recognise the value of standard processes, techniques and methods and the need for ‘people skilled in people’ – relationships, communication and leadership. Pelicam have previously demonstrated that these two “dimensions” (hard and soft) don’t include all the elements necessary to guarantee success. Why is that? Two reasons:
1.) Because no two projects are the same – why?
- the context (where we operate - the environment, the organisation, the politics); and
- the content - complexity, design, products.
2.) How to ensure the right things are done well - the granularity, precision, accuracy and focused decision making that is required?
We are always asked: “what makes a good project manager?” Yes there’s the normal stuff about intelligence, energy, people skills – but the significant competency is the ability to decide what to focus on – what needs to get done, what problem needs to be resolved,what problem can be ignored?
Pelicam call this third dimension ‘Project Intelligence’. It’s a combination of skill, instinct, technique and experience.
We’ve consolidated findings of 50 recent project intelligent reviews – scaling from £2m to £500m - across a number of industries – and it’s produced FIVE learning points.
ONE – previous surveys (e.g. MIT, Standish, MCA) highlight a very poor delivery record. Our findings give useful granularity as to why projects are failing; and contrasts with prior research.
TWO - Projects scored 50% against best practice. Why so low? Because by definition, best practice must take into account every situation and permutation; and projects are not designed that way. Our hypothesis remains –best practice is not a helpful measure.
THREE - Projects reviewed early in the life cycle are more likely to be successful. Conversely, projects reviewed late in late stages (test/ implementation) are often ‘too far gone’ and beyond help.
FOUR – High incidence of Critical/Red/Black/Toxic issues (there’s only so many ways of saying these are really, really important):
- Serial killers: dependencies not mapped, dis-engaged stakeholders, poor business case, flawed governance, poor planning, unclear quality, lack of testing quality, risk/issue/change ignored (all occur in more than 66% of projects).
- Persistent offenders: suppliers, people and relationships, existing systems, complexity, solution definition (in 39-53% of projects).
- Aggravating theft: corporate alignment, technology alignment, communications, and cost management (in 11-26% of projects).
FIVE – Every organisation has common failure points. Review 3 to 5 projects and the same issues will occur. Find and fix these issues across the organisation and you can fix all your projects.
Project Intelligence is not well understood in ‘project world’ but needs to be embraced and learnedEach organisation has its own serial killers – they should be locked up