Why Projects Really Fail
To continue the story: when I originally carried out my research into failed projects, the number one reason given (on around 80% of failed projects) was unrealistic estimates. But why would so many estimates be wrong?
Well arguably all estimates are wrong as they are just that, estimates, but somehow that seems to get forgotten in the heat of the project. Typically people forecast work and costs based on past experience but they forget two important things: 1) at the start of a project there are a lot of unknowns that will only be discovered later on in the project; and 2) things will go wrong during the course of the project. Failure to allow for these two factors will hamstring the project estimates and of course the schedules that are based on them from the outset.
Wise project managers load their early estimates with lots of contingency (although we cunningly disguise it) to cover for this. They then re-estimate the remaining work on the project at regular intervals and gradually reduce the level of contingency as it is used up. Failure to do this is just poor project management and the unrealistic estimates are merely a symptom of this.
The last time I was responsible for managing a team of project managers I used to take their first time and cost estimates for a project, write my estimate on it and seal it in an envelope and give it to the financial director to put in their safe until the project was completed. We would then open the envelope and see who was closest to the actual time and cost. I’m unhappy to say it was always me but that wasn’t down to my estimating skill, I simply doubled their estimates.
More on this subject next week, meanwhile...
I mentioned last week that I had received an approach from an on-line training company called Classel and things are progressing in that direction. So it looks like I have found myself another project.