Friday, February 20, 2015

The Real Cause

Why Projects Really Fail
Over the past ten weeks I've listed the top ten ‘causes’ often cited for project failure. But as we have seen they all turn out to be just symptoms of poor project management. So let's bite the bullet, the real reason projects fail is just poor project management.

Wise project managers are aware of these symptoms as they will have learned about them the hard way from their own early projects. They take the necessary steps to ensure they don’t have these problems in future on their projects. 

But that still leaves us with the problem of what to do about the unwise project managers whose project run into problems or fail altogether. At the risk of offending my friends in the PMI, the answer is not to send them all on training courses. What I believe we need to do is to develop (not train) the project managers, develop the organisation, select the right projects in the first place and then regularly review them. I'll be expanding on these topics over the next few weeks.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Inadequate Risk Management

Why Projects Really Fail
This is the extra cause of project failure I added to my original nine to make a nice, solid ten causes, based on more recent study. Right from the outset poor project managers seem to plan their projects on the assumption that nothing will go wrong. Unfortunately for them Murphy's Law never fails to deliver.

On the other hand a wise project manager knows that things will go wrong and allows for that in the initial planning exercise. They then spend time, with the project team, looking for potential risks that could impact the project. Having identified the risks, they then take steps to mitigate those risks. Despite that they still know that some things will go wrong and, when they do, they actively manage the resultant activities to minimise the impact and recover from it as quickly as possible. So yet again inadequate risk management is just another symptom of poor project management.

Next week we will begin to examine the real cause of project failure and what we can do about it. Until then enjoy your projects.

Friday, February 06, 2015

Lack of Resources

Why Projects Really Fail
Lack of the right resources at the right time can derail a project. OK I hear you say, this one can’t be a symptom of poor project management, can it? Well consider how a wise project manager deals with the problem. Firstly they don’t wait for it to happen, they assume it will happen and take steps to get the resources they need, when they need them through top management support. If the business can’t provide the resources then the project can’t be critical to the business and should be stopped. Failure to deal with this is yet another symptom of poor project management.

The Project
David has finished the new chapter 13 (Agile Projects at Scale) and it looks good. Now he has three weeks to review and revise chapters 1 to 12 so we can finalise everything when I get back the following week. I know it's pushing him but we can't afford to put the date back again.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Poorly Defined Responsibilities

Why Projects Really Fail
Poorly defined responsibilities can again be linked to poor communications. If team members don’t have well defined responsibilities and understand what those responsibilities are, they will do the things they think are important, or even worse, the things they enjoy doing and the project will turn into a nightmare. 

The wise project manager makes sure everyone in the team knows what is expected of them, what they need to do, and when they need to do it by. I always liked to produce a Deliverables Checklist for each stage of a project, listing all of the project deliverables, with who is responsible for delivering each, when they are scheduled to start and when they are scheduled to be delivered by. Then review and update it weekly with the project ensure everyone knows what is expected of them. Poorly defined responsibilities is just another symptom of poor project management.

The Project
David's work on the new chapters has slipped a bit, I think he underestimated the amount of work involved. I've told the publishers and put back the completion date but the danger is now that they will run out of stock of the old version before they can get the new one into print. They'll either have to print more of the old version and delay the new or it will be 'out of stock' and we will loose sales. Project life is never easy.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Lack of Stakeholder Ownership

Why Projects Really Fail
Project stakeholders are defined as anyone with a vested interest in a project. They can have a positive interest (they will benefit from the project) or a negative interest (they see some disadvantage from the project) but they are still stakeholders. They can help or hinder a project and as project managers we neglect them at our peril.

But if the stakeholders don’t actually care about the project or take any responsibility or interest in it, then why is the project being carried out? This 'cause of failure' is closely linked with poor communication and top management support. A wise project manager communicates with all the project stakeholders (including the negative ones) and makes sure they understand the reason for and are committed to the project. It would seem that a lack of stakeholder ownership is a sign of an unnecessary project and just another symptom of poor project management.

The Project
David has now got his own copy of InDesign and is taking over editing the material directly, rather than giving me the changes to edit. I can see the advantage to him in this and will do my best to give him any support he needs, but the timescale was already quite tight so I hope he can cope with a steep learning curve.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Poor Leadership

Why Projects Really Fail
Poor Leadership was the sixth most common cause of project failure reported in the original study I am basing this series of blogs on and it is another absolute project killer. If the project manager is not providing good leadership then the project will fail, no question. No one on the team will be motivated and they won’t care if the project fails. In fact those with any sense will get themselves off the project as fast as they can. 

The wise project manager knows how important it is to provide a lead for the team and rally them when they need rallying. The wise project manager encourages the team and is supportive, without seeking to take the credit for the team's achievements.  Poor leadership is simply poor project management.  

The Project
David and I have decided to add two new chapters to the second edition of the book (Feature Driven Development and Managing Large Agile Projects) along with updating the existing content.  It will increase the size of the book and the price slightly but I think it will be a significant improvement in coverage of the subject.  Two weeks to our deadline, should be getting interesting.

Friday, January 09, 2015

Lack of Top Management Support

Why Projects Really Fail (continued)
Lack of top management support was always one of my big bug bears and it’s just poor stakeholder management. I've been there and had to deal with it. If there is no top management support for a project then why does it exist? How can it be critical to the business if top management aren’t supporting it? 

The answer was usually that it was someones' 'vanity project'. A wise project manager will recognise this very early in a project (if not right at the start) and insist on a senior management project sponsor (who really will champion the project), then work with them to obtain organisational support. If they can't get this they must recommend cancelling the project due to the high probability/high impact risk of project disaster. This is not as easy as it sounds if the person asking you to manage the project is your boss, but hey, the reason we love project management is the challenge. If we wanted an easy life we would be line managers!  Failure to do this is just poor project management, the lack of top management support is a screaming symptom of an unwanted or unneeded project.

The Project(s)
For reasons outside of my control I have had to cancel the on-line course development project for Cassel. This is really disappointing as not only was I enjoying the experience, but I have now had to let a customer down. They have been kind enough to leave the door open for me if the circumstances change in future.

The only positive I can take from this is that I can now concentrate on my other project: working with David Morris on a revised version of Agile Project Management in easy steps, which he will be taking over after this release. We are due to complete the work on this by the end of January so it's quite tight, but hey, didn't I just say that's why we love being project managers.

Take care and enjoy your projects.