10 Oct

Overcoming Top Five Reasons for Project Failure

continuous-improvement-loopIn a recent post, KPS Associates searched public records to analyze the copious amounts of data from studies attempting to identify the most common reasons for project failure.  We reviewed individual bloggers, research institutes such as the IDC, and some of the world’s most renowned firms including PriceWaterhouseCooper and Oliver Wyman.  From that effort, we shared “Top 5 Reasons for Project Failure | An Aggregate View” with a goal of providing an unbiased, comprehensive view of the real issues keeping you back from realizing the competitive advantages of an effective project delivery organization.  In this follow-on post, we have designed a quick reference guide for you to begin resolving these issues within your organization.  Contact us today so we can begin understanding you organization, analyzing your project delivery processes, and develop a plan to optimize and mature that team.   Project Manager Skill & Leadership – Considering the skill of your project manager has almost twice the impact on success, compared to the next issue in the list, this is one you will want to get right.  There are 3 keys to ensuring you have the best folks leading your significant investments:

    1. Our Founder, Robert Kelly, has been talking about a need to shift from Project Managers to Project Leaders.  The PM role is very unique position within every organization and leveraging general recruiters for this is a huge mistake! Here at KPS, we have great respect for the role of a recruiters and partner with them on other skill-sets (just as they are not great at securing top PM talent, KPS is not focused on PERL Developers), so please don’t take this as a knock on them in anyway.  KPS has a very unique selection process that we feel no one can match or even tries.  We would love to assist you in this space.  Read our other blogs…we do not sell often on this blog and this bullet is the last you will of it for some time.
    2. One size does not fit all.  We are constantly amazed at how many folks have highly qualified PMs in coordinator roles, simply because they don’t have their PMP.  Additionally, we see firms paying top dollar for a Senior PM with the credentials, when in fact all they need is a junior PM or Project Analyst.  More often than not, it is simply a broad brush title.  You must work to identify the right skill-set for the project at hand.
    3. Invest in Development.  Continuing from the above, by implementing appropriate titles, you develop career paths for your people to strive for.  PMs often have a hard time understanding what their career path looks like and this solves for that…to a point.  Additionally, by having coordinator-PM-Sr. PM and so on, you can focus your training and leverage train the trainer/mentor programs more effectively.  KPS doesn’t do the training thing.  Like good consultancies, we have partnered with some of the best in the business in their respective strength areas.  Just like a general recruiter isn’t great at finding PMs, PMs don’t always make great trainers.  In any event, training does not require big budgets.  Local PMI chapter meetings run about $15 per month, there are dozens of free webinars every month on the web, and son.  To get this right, you need to spend some time in identifying those resources and building them into your PMs KPIs for the year.  We would love to talk with you more about this…Yes, Free of Charge! Contact us today!  Mr. Kelly is the co-founder of #PMChat, a global network of PMs that meet weekly to discuss best practices…we love this stuff!

  Unclear Goals & Business Alignment – Even the strongest of PMs can quickly find themselves in a project headed for disaster if the goals for the project aren’t clear and tied back to corporate strategy.  Just as we were composing this post, CIO.com shared a great post called 7 Top Wishes of IT Project Managers and #4 on the list was to have clearly defined objectives and goals. Saying “build a faster or comprehensive system” is useless.  You would be amazed at how many product managers have asked for a truck, without saying what color, how many doors, weight, etc. As important as clear objectives might be, they to will get dropped by the waste-side if the project is not tied to business goals and strategy.  If the team and organization as a whole understand how this project contributes to the business (revenue) and impacts strategy (enables new markets), then they will be more committed to its success and less likely to reprioritize.  A strong project leader, armed with these two elements, can effectively cast vision and motivate the team.   Scope Changes & Change Management –  Most projects venture into an unknown space for the organization or tackle some problem that has plagued the company’s executives for some time.  Projects are not easy.  Even with this understanding and leadership books/courses littered with discussion on change, it is amazing how poorly change is accepted and managed within most firms.  Assuming you can improve on the two items above, then next item is to improve how you identify, mitigate, and manage change events in the organization.  Again, most organizations expect change to occur and many have shifted to a more adaptive project methodology for better responsiveness, but you still need a process to quickly review, accept, and implement changes.  Like team member development, this does not have to be expensive and complicated, but does require time and proactive planning.  Jump over to our resources page and leverage the Risk Matrix to get your team started.   Staffing & Inappropriate Skills – With all due respect, many of your internal folks have not been exposed to the ‘new’ or have actually created some of the issues.  It is difficult to think outside the box when you built the box.  Firms must consider the balance of inherent/company knowledge with specialized external skills to build a highly focused teams.  If you have not invested in your people to attend training on the latest tech or to attend the top industry conferences, then you may have to consider outside talent.  The biggest mistake here is that folks do not consider this when develop the project budget.  You must do a resource/skills analysis at the outset, during project initiation.   Executive Support – For too long, many have chalked up PMs cry over lack of executive involvement as an excuse.  However, PwC’s 3rd Global Survey on the current state of project management, found companies with greater senior management support of PM-driven initiatives achieve stronger business results.  It makes sense…executives are driven to succeed and do not like to be associated with failed initiatives.  The involvement of the appropriate executive provides guidance to the PM and team, helps maintain focus and commitment in the shifting matrix environment, and often speeds the approval and adoption of changes.  Securing an Executive Sponsor that is engaged and vocal of the initiative is key.  This one may take some time if your organization has an immature project framework or poor track record.  You must ensure the 4 above and your project processes/tools are stable in order to obtain such confidence.  It would also help to secure a few small wins and build that confidence, relationship collateral. A few items the Executive Sponsors should be doing…

  • Reviewing the business case and providing guidance on approach, positioning, and anticipating objections.
  • Open the project kick-off and reiterate the business alignment and personal commitment to the team/initiative.
  • Participate in key milestone reviews, occasional support of the PM & Team, and evangelizing across executive team.
  • Identifying and removing potential roadblocks.

  There are some other issues that project organizations are facing (methodology, tools, etc), but your team has to tackle these first.  The above post is a quick reference, high-level guide to getting your team on track.  KPS would be honored to talk with you and your team about the challenges you are facing.  We would be happy to tell you all about ourselves, but would like to take time to understand your business, your culture, and how project management fits into your company today.  We are passionate about the benefits an organization can realize with effective project management and confident we can help you.  Contact us today!