We can sometimes think that everyone else is a bad driver – but that we are a good driver. Of course, we also know that both of these statements can’t be true.
Similarly, if 70% of projects fail to deliver, then the chances are that we are all involved in projects right now that are going off-track. However, we rarely think that we are contributing to a project that will fail. The truth is that we can all be bad drivers (at certain times of day, under the wrong conditions, with the best of intentions).
That being the case, wouldn’t it be great to know which of your projects are failing already so that you can recover them and get them back on track?
Fortunately, we already know the main reasons why projects fail – they have been the same reasons for a very long time – and boil down to 5 main points:
1) Poor leadership – at the heart of a failure is often poor leadership, and a trail of poor decisions. Many organisations do not adequately empower teams to resolve poor decision making and challenge weak leadership
2) Poor decision making – often governance models and project controls are established at the beginning with all the right intentions. However, they tend to lose focus and direction during the life of the programme
3) Inexperienced teams – all too often we find that the teams steering large programmes are inexperienced. They tend to be made up of the people that were available at the start of the project, rather than the best people for the job
4) Unrealistic expectations – organisations try to bite off more than they can chew and are generally overly optimistic about business cases and expected benefits. Consequently, there can be a major discrepancy between expectations and reality and a focus on the “shiny new technology” to solve all the problems
5) Poor change management & communication – organisations forget to communicate and explain the real impact and opportunities a transformation will bring, to the people most affected by the change. This tends to lead to changes that work for a while, but don’t stick
"70% of complex projects fail to deliver"
All of which leads to a poor business culture, and a likely failure to deliver complex projects
So how do you identify the failing projects? Well it turns out that the answer is quite simple – ask those people involved in the project. We find that for most failing projects, there are a number of people in the team that are fully aware that there are problems – it’s just that nobody is asking them or taking them seriously.
Of course, the challenge is that you can’t just ask them directly. It’s quite likely that they won’t answer the question honestly, or think you are part of the problem. Have you ever been asked by someone to say how good a driver they are? Faced with that question, most people would not give a truthful answer in order to save the hurt or avoid the conflict that a more honest answer would create.
That’s why we developed our online project review – to help you engage with those people who feel you aren’t listening or taking them seriously, or who are quietly accepting the slow demise of your project.
And if you are currently involved in a failing project, please speak out. After all, it’s easier to correct a poor driving style than it is to pull a car out of a river.
Mark Lockton Goddard
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