Projects fail or falter and there is lots of research on why. Some of these are mentioned below. But perhaps more interesting for all of us is why certain types of projects falter or fail, or why projects in our own organisation falter or falter.
Falter here means takes longer or costs more than planned. Fail means doesn’t achieve any of it’s primary goals, or is pulled due to reasons within the project itself.
To find out the reasons within our organisation it is useful to carry out a little research of our own. This can be done in two ways. Firstly using a questionnaire tool like survey monkey. Secondly through conversations, either face to face, telephone etc.
This can be done within a department or across the organisation. But the obvious hurdle to doing this research is that it might cause offence. So to get it started and successfully completed you will more than likely need senior support or sponsorship. And guess what, that’s one of the reasons why projects fail as reported in a Harvard study!
It can therefore be better to go about your research in an informal way with casual conversations with colleagues. This can focus on your objective to learn from their experience and to inform your projects based on what they say.
The next area to look at is to plan your research carefully. Bearing in mind most people are very busy, therefore you will only have time for a few questions. The need to focus is key. What are the questions which will give you most value? Make your questions specific enough to give a steer on how they should answer, but open enough to give them freedom to give you their thoughts. So, a tricky balancing act. One approach is, “I’m trying to give my projects the best possible start, so I’m trying to learn from others. What have you learnt in running projects here? What have you found works or doesn’t work?” And guess what, lack of planning comes up in lots of research as to why projects fail.
Another key area is unrealistic expectations. These may be because of a lack of experience or simply a lack of planning. What is achievable is a difficult question. My tip here would be to get a project mentor. Someone who has experience of running projects in your organisation but who is not involved in yours. They can share their experience with you whenever you need it. This can be invaluable.
Next is to get your users involved. These are the people who are going to use your new whatever it is. These people can often be ignored or their needs and wants assumed. Big mistake. Get them involved or get some of them involved from the start. This is crucial to make sure you start on track and stay on track. They can give you a reality check at every step.
In a KPMG survey of 2013 regarding projects in New Zealand they found that one of the key contributory factors to project success was trained project managers. Well we would highlight this one wouldn’t we, but really it makes perfect sense.
In their study of 2011 Oracle found that one of the less reported reasons for failure is risk management. That is, considering what might stop or hinder the project as it progresses through each step. They say that involving the whole project team on this subject can be critical in mitigating some of the risks.
I hope you find this blog post interesting and useful. If you would like to explore how our project management training can help in avoiding these challenges, then of course I would be delighted to discuss.