The fall and rise (and remake) of Reginald Perrin...

“27 minutes late: points failure outside Carshalton Halt...”begins Reggie.  But as I recall in the original 1970’s series it used to be something like “11 minutes late: dog on the line near Clapham Junction.”  We must conclude, therefore, that Reggie is 16 minutes later these days.  Ah much for estimating.

On Radio 4 recently, a government minister revealed his intervention into a £200m project had successfully achieved a latest best estimate of final cost as £550m (though there was still time for it to increase).  Am I alone in thinking that success appears to have changed its meaning?  Yet another Radio 4 interview recently told of a project that had delivered precisely what the government wanted - a great success!  Although the £300m spent was rather more than the original £20m budget.

Successful sitcoms may be remade and enable us to relive previously forgotten humour: aficionados of Leonard Rossiter’s Reggie Perrin may disagree.  Martin Clunes’ recent portrayal may have won others over.  However its success will undoubtedly not depend on the additional time Reggie Perrin 2009 takes to get to work.  Indeed series success is much more subjective.  Successful projects are, however, a different matter.

I confess to being at a complete loss how a £200m project already running a further £250m over budget (with the potential for further cost increases) or a £20m project costing 15 times more than plan could be described as successful.

For the hair-splitters amongst you who may be thinking that project success should not merely be constrained by the tightest definition of time, cost and deliverable quality/scope (TCQ) - well for once we may be in agreement!  There are undoubtedly projects whereby meeting stakeholder expectations of longer-term benefits may supersede simple TCQ measures.  But here’s the rub: these government projects use our, no, money.  And that makes me a stakeholder.  And although I can’t speak for you: I’m not happy about it...nor are my expectations being met.  In fact, come to think about it: I’m quite cross!  And you know what?  I’m very concerned about it; because the government has just announced that they are about to try and boost our economy by doing more projects like this.  So now what are you thinking? 

And yet when such projects are resourced, a key criterion for hiring a project manager is that they must have previous experience of government projects!!!  (“Are you serious?” -John McEnroe,1976).  They must (also) inevitably hold a PRINCE2 certificate (ref: our Spring 2009 newsletter).  At interview they must also show how good they are at managing stakeholder politics (but not the ones that matter: Ed) and agree a nice, (and sometimes not so) cheap day rate.  

I can only echo the words of that illustrious British manager, CJ, when he might say “I didn’t get where I am today without knowing a right governmental balls-up when I see one.  Bit of a cock-up on the project management side.


2010, PeopleKatie MayerComment