Tag Archives: People

We Have Met the Enemy – He is Us

This was the title of my presentation at the #ITx2014 conference yesterday.

I have embedded the slideshow. In the next few days I will try and put up a version with an audio commentary reflecting what I said on the day.

 

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Aspects of Project Failure – The Seven Deadly Sins

Yesterday I posted an item on 10 Things Great Project Managers Do. This post popped up on Facebook, as do my other posts, and a friend and former colleague Andy Cawston responded. We entered into a brief discussion as to how various human factors impact on projects.

Andy had made the observation that the list did not include Risk Management, to which I responded:-

Sure and in one sense all of the 10 are about Risk Management, with a focus on the people aspects, often seen as the ‘soft options’, yet in fact people are in many ways the hard options and in my view looking back over several decades ‘people’ are in fact one of the root causes of project failure. Indeed depending on the criteria being used to assess failure one might argue that ‘people’ are the primary cause of project failure and that successful project management is more about people management than anything else. At which point all sorts of people emerge from the woodwork to decry the proposition.

Andy then went on to expound an interesting concept:-

I’d be inclined to support that proposition. To my experience the primary causes of project failure tend to be people-related. For example, scope creep = people wanting too much, too soon, for too little. <— that’s Greed (Avarice), in a nutshell.

You could take each of the 7 Deadly Sins and similarly map them against the causes of project failure. All of them.

Wrath, sloth, pride, lust, envy, and gluttony could each similarly be mapped against primary causes of project failure, and as such could be managed as project risks.

Bloody brilliant!

I can recall one project in particular where Sloth was the primary cause of a project nearly failing. I was assigned to drag the project back, and we ended up delivering properly. It was hard work!

I can recall another project where Pride and Envy played a huge part in the bid process. Our team had been selected to develop a Partnership with the client. Our PM resented the presence of an external consultant driving the project, fought him tooth-and-nail, and we nearly ended up getting booted out of the account. Only a Mutiny by our team against the PM saved us…

Indeed the more I think about it, the situations we find ourselves in so often on projects do mirror the 7 Deadly Sins. Further, I think that more and more I am coming to the view that people are the primary cause of project failure, which goes a long way to explaining why we continue to see project failures year after year with causes of failure the same or similar to those encountered decades ago.

What do others think?

ISACA Wellington – Project Success Event

We had a good day on Friday. Interesting presentations and lots of questions and discussion from the participants, which made the effort involved in organizing the programme and event well worth while.

A consistent theme which emerged was the importance of people in all aspects of programmes and projects. Further, was a strong sense that when looking at programmes and projects we should recognise first and foremost that they are about business and change, not techonology alone.

My thanks to the speakers and to the attendees for making the day so succesful.

Growth through failure

From an HBR Blog by Peter Bregman comes this interesting post – Why You Need to Fail. It discusses how failing in fact encourages people  to succeed.

Bregman’s post concludes:-

A growth mindset is the secret to maximizing potential. Want to grow your staff? Give them tasks above their ability. They don’t think they could do it? Tell them you expect them to work at it for a while, struggle with it. That it will take more time than the tasks they’re used to doing. That you expect they’ll make some mistakes along the way. But you know they could do it.

Want to increase your own performance? Set high goals where you have a 50-70% chance of success. According to Psychologist and Harvard researcher the late David McClelland, that’s the sweet spot for high achievers. Then, when you fail half the time, figure out what you should do differently and try again. That’s practice. And according to recent studies, 10,000 hours of that kind of practice will make you an expert in anything. No matter where you start.

I found the article interesting. In fact I read it twice and then saved it, to study again later.

When I reflected further on what Bregman wrote I realized that at various stages in my career I had been fortunate enough to work for people who were prepared to accept that failure or mistake was a possibility, but saw that as part of an individual growth path. In fact what I was being set were challenges and that failre to meet a true stretch was not a failure as such.

The concept is one well worth bearing in my mind, especially if you are in a leadership position. I may have been fortunate with regard to the value system of those I worked for, it is possible that in some organizational cultures this approach would not work. In such cases, it could be that the organizational culture needs adjustment.

Anyway think about what the article proposes and what it might mean.

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