Last week I thought I was done with my list of the top 3 reasons that projects fail. Well, now it is the “Top 4 Reasons That Projects Fail” list. I would like to add one more.
Some projects fail because the organization failed to stick with the original plan and someone didn’t say no.
I was working with a company last year that was experiencing projects being delivered late, over budget or incomplete. During our time together the term ‘torpedo projects’ was something I was hearing much too often. Theses were the projects that came out of nowhere – from left field you might say. They would push most other projects aside and force an immediate reprioritization of resources. Many times they are recognized as someone’s ‘pet project’ and as such, they are typically successful. The problem is that the projects they pushed out of the way suffered.
Later on, as they looked at the original strategic plan and measured their success on delivering to the plan, they were not shocked to see that their performance was sub-par. There were no surprises. These torpedo projects, while so important at the time, were causing the pain and destruction you might expect from a real torpedo.
The most successful organizations in the area of project execution have a good solid plan from the start and waiver only in rare exceptions. Work is selected based on the strategic plan. Projects are created to get that work done and resources are engaged to complete the projects on time, on budget and within scope.
I know it all sounds so easy. The truth is, reality will often set in and some projects, originally well placed in the plan, will get delayed or push around. New priorities will pop up and new projects will be slotted into an already busy schedule.
Reality, maybe, but if you live in this kind of environment you need to create a process to ‘receive’ any and all projects regardless of whether they were planned or if they are a ‘torpedo’. This is your ‘Project Execution Engine’. Each project enters the system and goes through the usual process like all others – scope definition, funding, sponsor ownership, resourcing, scheduling, risk assessment and more.
Most importantly, this ‘Project Execution Engine’, with limitations like all other engines of any type, needs to accommodate the new work or show its owners what has to give in order for this to work.
Projects can fail because people say yes to projects that will steal away resources from other projects. If the engine can’t accommodate them all, there is no way they can all succeed.
With a sound “Project Execution Engine” in place these project failures can surely be avoided.
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