Top 5 Project Management Tips That Could Save The 44% Of Projects That Fail

Project Management Tips

The football team that loses 44% of their games languishes mid-table … and that’s OK … they never get relegated but they never achieve great glory either. In some businesses a 44% failure rate still means that you’re doing alright … I mean 44% failure means 56% success … right? But what if a doctor failed to correctly diagnose 44% of his patients, or the fire brigade failed to extinguish 44% of the blazes it attended, or your morning commuter train arrived late 44% of the time … or your business?

What if 44% of projects failed to deliver on strategy, on cost or on time? Would that matter? In their 2014 Pulse of the Profession report, the PMI (Project Management Institute) is claiming that 44% of all “strategic initiatives are unsuccessful”. Is that you? Maybe you’re happy that 56% of projects land safely, maybe you don’t even measure Project Management (PM) success, and maybe you’re unaware what percentage success rate is achievable. I’ll tell you … 89% of projects at the highest performing organisations DO meet their original goals and are in-sync with business case. 11% fail vs 44% fail – makes you think!

So where are some businesses/organisations going wrong? One of the key reasons why this is happening is a lack of alignment between the project and the business strategy of the organisation implementing it. Reading back that sentence – it seems obvious. You’ve got to know the “why” before you even think about the “how”, but sometimes hugely successful corporations and SMEs alike are setting out on a Project Management journey without keying their destination into the Satnav and getting hopelessly lost on the way or worse – not showing up at all.

So if you take one tip from this blog: write it on a post-it, note it in your smartphone, burn into your subconscious. Know the “why” before you even think about the “how”. If you were building a house you’d refer back to the blueprint each day – get a blueprint for your project.

This alone doesn’t turn 56% success rate to 89%, but add in the key drivers of failure that I see day to day, e.g. a shortage of in-house Project Management experience, a lack of time to properly oversee a project (including laying proper foundations of governance at the outset) and sometimes … well frankly … sometimes simply giving the wrong team member the wrong project to manage – and you start to see why almost half of projects are swaying off course.

So what else can you do? Based on my experience helping organisations get better results from Project Management strategies, here’s my Top 5 PM priorities:

5. Ask

If the most successful organisations are enjoying an 89% success rate – ask them what they’re doing and measure it against what, perhaps, you are not. OK – a competitor in your industry isn’t going to tell you the secrets of their success, but if they’re buying in Project Management from a third party – so can you! US business coach Philip Humbert advises creating Mastermind Groups of trusted successful individuals to have on tap to share knowledge and experience, with social media this is easier than ever. And don’t forget you can buy in Project Management as a Service for less than you’d think – so ask!

4. Processes

The most successful Project Management Offices have processes that they go through every time. Your PM processes should be aligned to the specific business strategy of your organisation, but very effective PM processes template are available, or you could consider buying in a Project Management Service.

Vince Lombardi, one of the best and most successful coaches in NFL history, said “Winning is not a sometime thing. You don’t win once in a while, you don’t do things right once in a while, you do them right all the time. Winning is a habit. Unfortunately, so is losing.” Get your PM processes right and far from making organisations stale or stagnant, the assurance that the basics are covered gives you freedom to identify and react to changes in your project’s environment, which leads nicely to…

3. Agility & Flexibility

“Agile” is one of the big buzzwords in Project Management right now. I love it. An ability to respond and react to changing industry needs or consumer demand or your own evolving business case is crucial to the success of any project. And it keeps you fresh and on your toes. To be agile the project has to be aligned to your business strategy from the outset, the alignment of “why” and “how” is key to your agility.

2. Top Up Your Talent

Keep your talent topped up. It’s not simply being sure that the right person for the job is working on your project – although that really helps – it’s your responsibility to make sure that your people are up to speed with the latest advances in your industry and in available technology and systems.

Whether you’re continually training in-house staff or outsourcing to the right people who are at the cutting edge, talent should be an evolving dynamic in your PM mix. It’s people that really matter to a project, all the metrics, all the reporting, all the governance, all the transparency, all the processes … are all pizza toppings on the thin crispy base that is your people. Keep your people trained to be their best and crucially, make sure that THEY KNOW THE PROJECT’S INTENDED GOALS.

And at number one…

1. Know The ‘Why’ Before The ‘How’

But you know that by now – right? Project Management isn’t rocket science, unless your project is to build a rocket, but it is a science. And just like those science experiments that you remember from high school, asking great questions, following the right process, being responsive to events, being taught how and knowing what your result should look like, could be the difference between success and blowing up the laboratory.

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Andrew Buxton is Business Development Director and also a co-founder of Stoneseed. He has more than 20 years' IT industry experience, working with medium and large organisations designing Intelligent IT sourcing models. Andrew works directly with CIOs to help them address critical IT needs, creating business framework models for change to balance the delivery of key IT services with on-going budget challenges.