Tag Archives: Project Managers

Input Sought

I am putting together a couple of papers for possible presentation/publication sometime in the future.

The working titles and content outlines are below.

Paper 1

We have met the enemy – it is us
Outline of proposed paper
Why do so many projects fail? Why despite the conferences, papers and books do we still see such a high proportion of failed ICT projects? Why are so many so quick to allocate blame to the project managers?
This paper looks at this issue from the perspective of a practitioner with several decades of experience in projects, project assessment and managing professional services. The core theme of the paper is that the root cause of much project failure is human nature; coupled with a signal failure even today by many who should know better to understand that technology is merely an enabler it is not a substitute for understanding and resolving the actual problem.
The paper will consider why failures continue to occur, the place of project methodologies and why we see projects subject to ‘strong’ governance still failing. The paper will draw upon the experience of the author and make reference to situations actually encountered across the author’s lengthy career. Consideration will be given to the viewpoints of executive management, operational managers, project personnel, vendors and consultants.
The author intends to take a provocative stance in his comments, especially as regards the all too common tendency to blame project managers for the problems, when in his opinion that is far too simplistic. Furthermore, he proposes to question the current fad for governance which all too often confuses protocol and process with the intent of governance which is ‘informed decision making’.
In summation the author intends to offer some suggestions as to commonsense steps which might be taken to reduce the incidence of failure.
Paper 2
Extinguishing scrub fires before they spark conflagrations
Some Thoughts on Portfolio Management
Outline of proposed paper
More and more organisations are finding themselves in the position of having portfolios of projects running. Some projects run well, others do not. Despite the money which has been spent on management systems we still find that the rate of success is poor and that in many cases executives and managers are surprised when programmes and projects ‘go off the rails’ with the velocity in many cases of a runaway locomotive.

The author intends to draw on his extensive experience with two major global organisations to highlight approaches to portfolio management which he has found successful both in identifying at an early stage the possibility of problems and where necessary mitigating the issues arising. The paper looks at these matters from a practical practitioners perspective not a theoretical one. It is hoped that the lessons learned, especially from mistakes made, will enable others to avoid some pitfalls in the future.

Areas considered include the question of risk/ benefit, cessation versus continuation and whether the perspective is different if the programme/ project is in house or external.

Regard will be had as to possible organisational approaches that may or may not offer benefits, including the role of Programme Offices.
In summation the intent is to look at Portfolio Management through the lens of a pragmatic practitioner and to offer some observations on possible approaches to obviate issues, ideally before they become problems.
The thrust of these two papers will be to take a practical experience based look at some of the issues in these two areas. It would greatly assist if anybody with views on the areas outlined would be kind enough to share their thoughts with me. I am happy to acknowledge such input in the paper. Furthermore if anybody would like to act as a reviewer please let me know, as another brain is always useful.
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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?

10 Things Great Project Managers Do

I came across this slideshow on 10 Things Great Project Managers Do today whilst browsing some online newsletters I subscribe to.

Whilst they may seem a little motherhood and apple pie to some,  it is when the basics are executed right that we get success. All too often we neglect the basics at our peril. There is a reason that the basics are called the basics.; it is that they are the building blocks for success.

One that resonated with me particularly was Number 10

GreatManagersDo_10

The reason being that all too often in the past I have had occasion to ignore this basic. When I have it has often not turned out like I would have wished. Being a hard charger as the Americans say, is all very well, but you need to pace the charging. That knowledge often comes only with experience and after learning why the basic is a basic and not a namby pamby HR idea.

Of course there are other things, but these 10 encapsulate much of what is required for success. They do not guarantee success but they will go a long way to reducing project failure due to project management. Note though that other factors are often as influential, if not more so in project failure than project management.

It’s the PM’s fault!

How often have we heard that cry? Especially when something goes wrong on an engagement/project.

Well in my opinion, a strongly held one by the way, that statement is often unjustified.

All too often the blame is placed on the Project Manager when in reality the whole thing should never have been undertaken in the first place.

The PM is blamed for decisions taken into which he/she probably had no input whatsoever, but the PM is the easy target.

Sometimes the PM is responsible, or partly so, but all too often the PM is the convenient scapegoat for management failings.

I will post again on this issue, as it needs to be discussed.

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