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Project Failure

By Craig Reid | Craig Reid, Projects, Process Improvement, Leadership, CFO |
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Today’s organisations are entrenched in cycles of project delivery. You’ll find program managers, project managers, teams of people, business analysts, process analysts and project co-ordinators. Everything of importance is run as a project.

Just as they rush to embrace transformation when they require major surgery, when they require a major project, they scramble to put together project teams, build business cases, and go on the slow arduous journey of implementing change. But that’s just the start. Projects have become so large that they’ve evolved a whole new set of roles and categories by which to manage them. No longer do organisations have only project managers. There are program and portfolio managers too! There are new hierarchies created to manage the increasing complexity of large programs of work. There are complex sets of processes simply to run projects and programs to allow them to implement even more complex processes! Despite new hierarchies and roles many projects still fail or miss their required deadlines resulting in great cost to the organisation both financially and in opportunity cost. 

Why, after several decades, are projects still failing to meet their goals so regularly? 

The first reason is that organisations are still ignoring the customer experience (which is always much broader than organisations initially think). This creates a myopia that leads to both missed opportunities and costly errors.

The second issue is that out-of-date methodologies are hamstringing project delivery. For the last 50 years organisations have stringently followed linear delivery processes that evangelise the need to complete one step after the other in a regimented order. Organisations have been using linear “waterfall” methodologies for decades, and the penny is now starting to drop – they’re slow, lack business and customer involvement and as a result produce output that is often a disappointment.

Thankfully many today are adapting to create more agile methods of delivering software and services that customers need. But they still have the same issues with project management. Projects take too long and are too costly. Often by the time they’ve implemented projects, their competitors are ahead of them. They’ve failed to get to market fast enough to get the competitive advantage.

So what is the answer to these project problems? 

Part of the answer lies in the use of project delivery methodologies. Current methodologies have created levels of bureaucracy and command and control that are as complex as the organisations themselves. Projects create false structures that shouldn’t exist in the first place. By managing business processes effectively day to day and implementing continuous improvement, the need for large projects is significantly reduced and as such the high inherent risk of complex projects is also reduced. The bureaucracy, approvals and expenditure that go hand in hand with projects can be significantly reduced if organisations are adaptive and adopt continuous improvement as part of their organisational DNA. 

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