Friday, February 05, 2016

Why Projects Fail

I read an interesting article the other day on project failure and its relationship to complexity. It defined complexity as three factors: Structural (how big the project is/how many bits it has); Dynamic (how fast things are changing during the project); and Socio-Political (how much people and politics interfere). It is fairly obvious to see that the higher these three factors are the more likely the project is to run into difficulties. 

As a project manager I always followed one simple rule: get a good project or program sponsor and make the socio-political aspects their responsibility. Then you as project or program manager can concentrate on the structural and dynamic aspects. If a project is too big, decompose it into manageable chunks (sub-projects or projects within a program). If the requirements are changing too fast, then switch to an agile approach. I rest my case.

Topsham RFC
On the rugby front the storm held off enough last week so we could play three games (1st XV, 2nd XV and Colts XV) on Saturday and all the Juniors games went ahead on Sunday. The Ladies were playing in a 10's competition somewhere else and I don't know how they got on. The ground looks a lot better this week and the 1st XV and Ladies are playing at home. What with that, the six nations and Exeter playing Saracens, it's going to be a pretty full weekend!

More on the projects next week.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Topsham RFC

Meanwhile at Topsham Rugby Football Club we had the second meeting of the Finance Sub-Committee and managed to get through quite a lot without wasting too much time. There is a fine line to be observed in chairing a meeting, between giving everyone their chance to have their say and getting through the business in a reasonable time. I always try to get through a meeting in an hour or less but over-ran on this one. Next week we have the initial (project kick off) meeting for the business planning project. So things are starting to move apace.

On the playing front, we are looking anxiously at the weather, particularly Storm Gertrude (at least she is no longer a hurricane!) and keeping our fingers crossed the pitches will be firm enough to play on Saturday and Sunday. But of course the weather is all part of the Way, so we go with it, whichever way it goes.

Friday, January 22, 2016

What is Taoism?

I was watching a program on China on the TV yesterday evening, which was very interesting. However the presented did say something that I took exception to, he referred to Taoism as a religion. Now to me Taoism (the Way as defined by Lao Tsu) is a philosophy not a religion, although some people may have tried to turn it into a religion after Lao Tsu's time.

Wikipedia defines Taoism as a philosophical, ethical or religious tradition of Chinese origin that emphasises living in harmony with the Tao. The term Tao means "way", "path", or "principle", and can also be found in other Chinese philosophies and religions. 

In Taoism, Tao denotes something that is both the source of, and the force behind, everything that exists. Taoism is practiced as a religion in various Asian communities. Its theology is not theist (even though some communities do worship Lao Tzu as the attributed founder of the 'religious' doctrine), and has more affinities with pantheistic traditions given its philosophical emphasis on the formlessness of the Tao.

So as I said earlier, to me Taoism is a philosophy. It is the way that I try to run my life. As I don't believe in religion I suppose that makes me an atheist Taoist. I'm happy with that, as it's as good as any other label.

Next week back to the project!

Friday, January 15, 2016

Life Goes On

Topsham Rugby Club
After all the games being cancelled last weekend due to the pitches being flooded by the torrential rain it's hopefully back on track this weekend. The 1st XV are away to Tamar Saracens and the 2nd XV are at home to Torquay (2:30 pm kick off).

Before that the Ladies have a memorial game in honour of Lily Partridge, one of the founder members of the Ladies team, who tragically died following a Devon RFU training session just before Christmas. Kick off at 12:30pm and the Under 9's will be playing a game between that and the 2nd XV game. We are expecting a large turnout and I will be manning the outside bar so let's hope the weather forecast (dry) is right for once!

What's this got to do with project management? Well all these one-off occasions are small projects in their own right so it's always interesting to see how they work out. Also I just thought you might like to know and it's more interesting than my day job as treasurer!

The Project
I've managed to get a project team of seven people representing the different sections of the club and have the project kick off meeting scheduled for 02-Feb. I'm working on a draft terms of reference (project brief) and agenda in the meantime.

Ah just like old times, into the great unknown, but as long as I follow the Way...

Friday, January 08, 2016

Happy New Year

Well here we are in 2016 and things are getting back to normal. Well apart from the fact that I am (as usual) going dry for January to try and recover from the excesses over Saturnalia!

On New Years Day I opened up our local outdoor swimming pool at 07:00 had a swim (water temperature 29C, air temperature 4C so great in the water, very cold running back to the changing rooms) then I opened up for the public at 08:00 and we had around 140 swimmers in for the early morning session. We are called the Nutters Club for reasons that shouldn't need explaining. So good deed for the year done.

The Project
As Honorary Treasurer of Topsham Rugby Football Club I have a 'day job' of balancing the books and not spending more than we can afford. Earlier this year we successfully paid off all outstanding loans on our new clubhouse. Now we have an excellent clubhouse our next priority is to improve our grounds and pitches. These were once among the best in Devon but recent heavy rain has shown that the playing surface quality needs to be improved. This is going to be another major project and I am currently working on getting some grants from the Rugby Football Union, Sport England and several local charities to fund the project.

One thing all the major sponsors ask for is a business plan, so the first step is to produce that. I need to get a project team together representing the three major sections of the club (Senior Men, Senior Women and Juniors) and other interested parties. We have a committee meeting on Monday so hopefully we will get the team identified there.

Then it's back to the Way. I'm looking forward to it.

I wish you all a happy New Year and may all your projects be successful.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Happy Christmas

So enough of disasters, let's look at the bright side of life. Christmas is a very old festival, originally pagan. The Romans called it Saturnalia, a week long period of lawlessness celebrated between December 17th and 25th, and during this period the law dictated that no one could be punished for damaging property or injuring anyone. So that's one answer to the question: what did the Romans ever do for us? 

Unfortunately it was then hijacked by the Christians when they came on the scene and turned into the fable we know today. But fear not some of us are keeping the old traditions alive and will eat and drink to excess and have a thoroughly good time. I am also blessed to have my birthday on the Winter Solstice so yet another excuse for merriment. 

There is a lot of sadness in the world these days and we should always spare a thought for those less fortunate than ourselves but that is no reason for not wishing everyone a very happy Christmas and every success in the New Year. 

Friday, December 04, 2015

A Seriously Challenged Project

Another one from the Why Do Projects Fail website:
Edinburgh City Council: Tram Network (Sep 2003 to May 2014)

When originally conceived the project was intended to reduce traffic congestion, reduce carbon emissions and help the city cope with the increased demand for public transport in the next decade. Today the project is regarded as a shambles and although Edinburgh does now have a tram, what they’ve ended up with falls far short of what was envisaged. Needless to say the public aren’t happy with what they got for their money.

Political influence and disputes between the contractors and consultants marred the project and the project came to a halt on several occasions. As early as 2005 the Scottish Parliament shelved the project when new cost estimates revealed an increase of 30% to the original £375m budget and although the project did get going again, those early cost increases were a warning sign of what was to come.
Soon after construction started in 2007, delays and cost overruns started to accumulate. Disputes between the various parties, quality issues and changes in design plagued the project and between 2008 and 2009 it became clear that the project had some deep seated issues. After 3 years of construction delays the City of Edinburgh Council stepped in. To limit ballooning costs and ongoing delays, the project’s scope was significantly reduced to one single 14km tramline from the airport to the City centre with 15 stops, about one third of the network initially envisaged.

Edinburgh residents had to endure the inconvenience of roads being dug up for the best part of seven years causing congestion and financial harm to businesses. The tram eventually took its first passengers in 2014.
The final cost of £1 billion, or £71.4m/km, compared to the average cost of about £22.7m/km for tramlines completed in 17 other cities in the northern hemisphere in the same period. A 314% cost increase for one third of the original scope.

Public opinion remains divided as to whether or not the project will eventually prove to be beneficial. An enquiry is currently underway to find the root causes and who was accountable for the fiasco. Contributing factors as reported in the press were: underestimating the complexity of the project; lack of contractor oversight; lack of quality controls; and failure to establish appropriate controls and management processes to ensure the project was properly organized.
Once again the real reason is plain to see: poor project management.