The search for the holy grail of consistently achieving project certainty continues. And it is surprising the places people are looking. It is understandable that we may ask the question - ‘what are the top 10 project failures’ – and seek to identify and concentrate on the resolution of these issues. Pursuing such an approach, it follows there will be an improvement in an organisations performance but the effort is typically unfocused, inefficient and has a large opportunity cost.
For instance, ask most Heads of Change, Projects and Programmes the question and they will cite organisational culture and relationships, stakeholder management/governance and objective definition of benefit as being included in their key challenges. What are the top three generic project delivery challenges in your organisation? How effective will a change programme be that directly seeks to address them?
Whilst going through this exercise may improve your project performance to some extent, we believe it is over simplistic. In order to understand more of a sufficient level of granularity, if we look at some of our own internal rules within Pelicam it is evident there are some fundamentals at a micro level that need to be understood and explored:
1. Recognise no two projects are the same. No two organisations are the same.
Projects have many different characteristics. Organisations (and divisions within organisations) have different qualities. Recognise the complexity of what you are trying to achieve and act accordingly. If project and organisational complexity is not understood, find someone who can define them. If appropriate define a system that enforces the investigative/research process for all projects and include it in your generic project methods/toolset.
2. Ensure projects are set up for success and integrity is maintained.
Four fifths of our Project Intelligence workshops look at how a project is set up. That gives a good indication as to how important we think it is. Practically all organisations now have a defined method and template for project initiation – many organsiations still struggle to achieve the level of granularity and precision to build a view of the project that “guarantees” success. How often do you look at a project definition document that through its articulation of the complexity, approach and planning, it convinces you/gives you the confidence that it will be delivered within the time cost quality parameters?
3. Don’t focus on what’s going wrong, but on what needs to go right.
A little like the opening point above, there is some value in focusing on what is wrong with a project, but a lot of it is noise and will only cloud the issue for resolution. How effective it is to receive an audit that shows 47 items in Red or Amber? Which should you focus on? Get to the point where you understand what needs to go right in a project (and we’re not just talking about defining a critical path), ensure these are focussed on.
4. Recognise the strengths in the project teams and build expertise within.
It is all too easy to point the finger at the project manager and say he is not doing all he should to deliver the programme of work. We all need support, encouragement and occasionally advice!
5. No limits - report on any issue or risk that impacts project success.
There are often organisational or environmental constraints that although perhaps recognised within a project team are not addressed because they are too difficult. If these are significant, find someone to help you.
6. Identifying a problem isn’t enough - agree the priority, how it will be remedied and action.
Too often we find a problem is raised within and the recipients believe that by hearing the problem and an outline of the potential resolution, the problem will go away! In order to effectively manage-out critical issues a persistent remediation exercise is needed. Often because the issue has not been identified by the project team, it’s often not too well understood, and therefore cannot easily be resolved. Find someone that understands the problems and can assist with the clean up.