Friday, March 27, 2015

Review the Projects

Why Projects Really Fail
Step four is to put processes in place to review all projects at set times in the project life-cycle. What is needed is some form of peer review process (where a small team external to the project, or just a single person for a small project, carries out a quick review against a standard check-list). Typically this would be at the end of each project stage. This is sometimes referred to as a gateway review process and uses a Red, Amber, Green traffic light against each point on the check list. Red is critical and urgent: the problem must be addressed or the project will fail. Amber is critical but not urgent: the problem should be addressed before any further key decisions are made. Green: the project is on track on this point. 

This process is nice and simple and I like ‘simple’ processes. And used properly it works as it ensures that projects that are going wrong get fixed or stopped before they can have a serious impact on the business. 

So that covers the four things I believe we can do to stop projects going wrong. Thanks to those of you who have given me feedback on these topics, it is much appreciated.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Chose the Right Projects

Why Projects Really Fail
Step three is to make sure that only projects that are critical to the business take place and that the projects that do take place are measured on the actual benefits they deliver to the business at the end of the project. Most organizations are currently failing in both of these areas.

These decisions must be made at the highest level in the organisation and portfolio management provides the mechanism for this (although you don’t have to call it that). The most business-critical projects are always prioritized and anything else (including projects that are already under way) can be deferred or delayed. This way all projects are business critical and will get full top management support.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Develop the Organisation

Why Projects Really Fail
Step two is to consider the needs of the organisation. A business today need to be agile and able to change and adapt quickly, if not it will fail. Because of this the business environment today is becoming more and more project driven and I don’t see that changing over the next few years, which means the business must have a project focus. That means embedding project management into the business strategy.

If we are going to do projects we need to do them right and that begins with putting our best people into the role (not just anyone who is available). Maybe as part of a career development process for a couple of years. Good managers will blossom in the role and be capable of taking on greater things in the future. But the organisation must support this and be fully committed to it.

Friday, March 06, 2015

Develop the People

Why Projects Really Fail
In my previous post (the real reason projects fail) I identified a number of steps that need to be taken and the first one is fairly obvious. Is the project manager up to the job? In other words do they have the necessary skills to manage projects? 

A lot of people get thrown into project management because they are available, with no thought about what skills they need to carry out the role. A good honest appraisal should clearly identify any areas of skills shortage and development needs. But we need to be honest, not everyone can become a good project manager. Not everyone will have the temperament or basic management skills necessary. If they show promise then we should provide mentoring for them. If they are not cut out for it, then we should move them to somewhere else in the business where they can do less damage.

But this won't happen spontaneously, we have to do something about it and that is what I will be discussing in the next topic: developing the organisation.

Thank You
Many thanks to those of you who have commented on the topics in this series. Most of which have been excellent. I will be turning this series of posts into a presentation to the PMI Netherlands Summit in June and will incorporate several of your points. So keep them coming.

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.