“A project is temporary in that it has a defined beginning and end in time, and therefore defined scope and resources. And a project is unique in that it is not a routine operation, but a specific set of operations designed to accomplish a singular goal.”—Project Management Institute
We entrepreneurs tend to be a “can-do” bunch with a propensity for action and a bias toward “do” first and rework later (when things don’t turn out as intended). This habit costs us time, money and employee morale. I frequently see entrepreneurs, small businesses, and especially start-ups bumbling their way through projects. Heck, I even biff it at times, and I’m a former PMP (Certified Project Management Professional).
Project failure (the inability to keep a newly launched project on time and on budget in order to meet the desired outcome) is common among big companies, even those who have formal project management processes in place. Check out item #2 in the Resources section of this article if you want to see examples.
So what makes a project fail? In my experience and that of my peers, there are three elements on the list. However, one stands head-and-shoulders above the rest. In this short interview, my mentor G. Lynne Snead, co-author of To Do, Doing, Done, reveals the number one thing to avoid while managing a project. We also share the “million dollar” question used to guard against project failure. If you enjoy this excerpt, you can find the entire interview and more under Item #1 of the Resources section below:
Studies and causes for project management failure:
Type of survey: Interview based study of software projects
Date: 2010 – 2011
Interviews with 600 people closely involved in software development projects find that, even at the start of a project, many people anticipate their projects will fail:
- “Fuzzy business objectives, out of sync stakeholders, and excessive rework” indicates that 75% of project participants lack confidence in project success.
- A truly stunning 78% of respondents reported, “the business is usually or always out of sync with project requirements.”
Source material – Why a Majority of Business and IT Teams Anticipate Their Software Development Projects Will Fail
Source: KPMG (New Zealand)
Type of survey: Survey of 100 businesses across a broad cross section of industries
Date: Dec 2010
KPMG survey of Project Management practices in New Zealand finds some truly startling results:
- The survey shows an incredible 70% of organizations have suffered at least one project failure in the past 12 months.
- 50% of respondents also indicated that their project failed to consistently achieve what they set out to achieve.
Reference article – Most Business Experience Project Failure
Source material – KPMG Project Management Survey 2010
Type of survey: Survey of 1,400 change management executives
Date: Oct 2008
IBM survey in the success / failure rates of “change” projects finds:
- Only 40% of projects met schedule, budget and quality goals.
- The best organizations are 10 times more successful than the worst organizations.
- The biggest barrier to success is listed as people factors: 58% changing mindsets and attitudes, 49% corporate culture, 32% lack of senior management support.
- The underestimation of project complexity is listed as a factor in 35% of projects.
For source data read – Making change work