“If you project managers are so damn good, why do projects keep failing?”
I was added at the 11th hour to this webinar panel when someone else couldn’t attend. The premise was simple; these are small to mid-sized business owners who want to know more about real-world project management practices, and would ask questions to a panel hoping for helpful information. Piece of cake, right!? What became immediately clear was most of the attendees had either failed or currently extremely challenged projects. They were frustrated and didn’t know what steps to take to get their efforts back on track. One person in particular was extremely frustrated and didn’t hide it. Since no one else spoke, I asked him politely to repeat his question.
“Yeah, if you project managers are so damn good, why do projects keep failing? It’s like $100M worth of failed projects for every $1B spent! If project managers are worth it, shouldn’t that stat be lower?”
“Well sir, if you’re looking at PMI’s Pulse of the Profession, yes, that’s essentially the stat they published (it was actually $97M, but who’s counting). Though it’s lower than last year, I agree it’s still alarming.” I went on to explain project failure can come from anywhere including a definition of done not being clearly defined, incomplete requirements, no sponsorship, scope creep, team that’s off doing their “day job” and make project work second, or a project manager who was picked from the operation pool because you thought they’d be good. The list can go on, but it’s the project manager’s job, along with the sponsor & key stakeholders, to try to tie up all those loose ends.
Our conversation went on for another 5 minutes until it was uncovered he had lost a large sum of money to a failed IT deployment and was really upset. I talked about creating a “Culture of Success” for the project and gave some key points. These are the same points I’ve presented at PMI events. Though they’re relatively simple in theory, they can be difficult in practice.
In the end both the attendee and I made a commitment; I will blog about “Creating a Culture of Success” with stakeholders, project teams and processes, and he will implement the concepts that make sense for his company. So to that end, I look forward to publishing what I’ve presented at PMI events. I hope you find them informative and entertaining!