Projects can go up as well as done, especially in the current economic storm.
Project management has been a big part of my business management career for the last 35 years. I attended my first course in project management in the early ‘70s. Since then I have accrued a large collection of practical theories that I would like to share, starting here with the bogey man of project management, Project Failure, how to avoid it.
Like all good team managers or players; Start by considering the goals!
Projects have 3 basic criteria by which they are measured. They are deemed to have failed if they do not meet the following simple success criteria:
• Deliver project within planned timelines – TIME
• Deliver project as per forecast budget – MONEY
• Delivering planned results – BUSINESS BENEFITS
Only around 30% of projects achieve all three facets of the Golden Triangle, especially the last one; Business Benefits, the project ROI, the business case justification, call it what you will.
Projects Delivered or abandoned?
Partly successful projects are deemed to be ‘delivered’, even if they fail on one or more of these criteria. According to Gartner this can account for 30% of projects. They also believe that 15% are wisely cancelled before the end, having failed outright to meet their original criteria. I can only surmise that this last group did not seek expert PM rescue advice to determine if they could pull it back from the brink or limit the damage. Instead, we will assume that these projects had a high certainty or potential for failure.
Thus, it raises the questions;
- Were they doomed from the start
- Did they lose direction or support on the way
- Were they really viable and therefore saveable
- Others. Discuss!
Mid Zone muddle
With around 30% of projects succeeding and 15% failing, we need to consider the 55% remaining projects in the mid zone, struggling for a foothold in the ‘shallows’ and ‘shifting sands’ between success and failure. Do these projects ‘partly succeed’ or ‘partly fail’? Are they caught up in some ‘timeless whirlpool’ that cycles them, infinitely? Clearly, not. They would run out of money, time or support for never to be achieved benefits. If we want to draw sensible conclusions from statistics, we need more accurate reporting methods, with more precise detail and granularity. Build in tighter controls. Build a better dashboard. Lead this ship of lost souls out of the doldrums.
Choose Success or Failure?
Moving on, let’s get back to the big fight; Success v Failure. The first question to be considered is; Should we be,
- Considering the key factors leading to success or the risk of success or;
- Examining the sources of and risk of failure?
In the latter stages of a project, this turnaround from imminent failure to possible success, can be achieved by bringing in an experienced rescue PM. They will quickly assess the damage, examine the mitigation potential and plot a course out of the swamp.
How? Simply through the disciplined use of proactive PM methodology and tools, plus the implementation and positive use of strong Risk management approaches. Oh Yes! and the benefit of decades of PM experience. Call me sooner than later.
Remember: Charismatic figureheads need to be ahead of the crowd! AND the crowd need to be behind them, all the way! (not as easy as it sounds)