How To Turn a Failed Project Into Future Successes - PM 360 Consulting
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How To Turn a Failed Project Into Future Successes

How To Turn a Failed Project Into Future Successes

Although there have been huge advances in project management in the last 20 years, the issue of Project Failure is still the elephant in the room. Success rates are not improving and the metrics surrounding project failure have been disturbing for decades — at least 50 percent of projects do not deliver on their promised results.T


These failures can have huge cost implications often ranging from hundreds of thousands of dollars into the millions, depending on the scale of the project.

In addition, lack of program management can cost companies millions of dollars in cost deviation. This is important because, over time, the value of your corporate brand and enterprise success rate are related.

This inability to learn from project failure is across all industries and sectors and includes many of the most successful organizations on the planet. The financials are staggering and a complete industry has emerged to address the reasons for failure, which are as predictable as the next dawn. 

There is no magic wand for good practice project management.  It takes consistent effort, applying lessons learned from other organizations or international best practices.  It takes the entire team, from the C-Suite right down to the project level, to drive success.  Everyone must be involved.

Project governance needs senior management support. They must understand the basic tenets of project management and the specific role that they play in the strategy.  This group becomes particularly important when change management is necessary.  Change rarely occurs horizontally but must come from the executive board, which often gives the go-ahead to drive that change to all project teams. It is important, therefore, for the executive team to get onboard with the project management scenario at the earliest stages and meet regularly with the teams.  This provides the harmony and synergies necessary to manage risks, institute necessary strategic changes and eliminate unshared silos of information.

Creating a structure for success

Leading the effort should be an enterprise project and portfolio management approach, which provides structure (including gate reviews and milestones), standards, reporting procedures, training and team management. A Project Management Office (PMO) can be the backbone of a successful project management approach by assuring that project delivery is managed in a controlled way. Its focus is:

•Governance – guidance that decisions are made properly by the right people with the best information in addition to audits or reviews that assure accountability

•Transparency – accurate information to support the “single version of the truth”

•Quality Assurance – eliminating bureaucracy, providing training and mentoring, therefore, making it easier for teams to do their jobs

•Eliminating Redundancy – creating a knowledge base for templates, best practices and lessons learned

•Reporting – management of documentation, project history and risk analysis

While structures may differ depending on the organization, there does need to be a central point of management that fits easily into the organization’s culture, takes into account the resources available and is the guardian of enterprise portfolio management tools. There may be one or more experts in the PMO who supports project managers and their teams with project management software.

This office may also manage a portfolio level dashboard that provides a type of helicopter review of the project as it moves forward.  This dashboard plays an essential role in transparency, providing a comprehensive look at the myriad of details that are involved in project success and how each of those areas are moving forward, or not, in seeking achievement of the end strategies.

Setting up a PMO can be a large undertaking and a considerable upfront investment that must eventually prove its worth, meaning a thoughtful approach is the best one. Depending on the time available, it may be helpful to begin the process slowly by offering key services and building up as necessary to support projects in the pipeline. This is not unlike the approach taken in developing projects by phasing in activities in order to gain buy-in from stakeholders and identify problems early before they become unmanageable, i.e. embracing failure as a way to move forward with a more successful strategy.  


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