Establish an Organizational Culture that Supports Projects

I read a great article from Business Improvement Architects:


The article neatly describes the problem with the current way organizations handle projects and how the cultures are evolving to have committees to steer the projects in the right direction. The article states the problem as, “Projects are becoming a critical part of corporate success yet research tells us that most projects do not fully succeed. According to the 2004 PriceWaterhouseCoopers Survey of 10,640 projects valued at $7.2 billion, across a broad range of industries, large and small, only 2.5% of global businesses achieve 100% project success and over 50% of global business projects fail. The Chaos Survey by The Standish Group reports similar findings. They say that 71% of all projects are either “challenged” (due to late delivery, being over-budget, or delivering less than required features), or “failed” and are cancelled prior to completion or the product developed is never used. Their statistics have not effectively changed since 1994.”

The article continues to site how the support of the organization was one of the main predictors of how a project would turn out as either successful or failure. The article states, “Business Improvement Architect’s 2005 project management research of over 750 organizations world-wide shows that 60% of Project Management Offices (PMO) say that the organizational culture is not supportive of the PMO. The major reason for project failure is that most organizations do not ensure that all projects they implement align with their organization’s corporate strategy”. Once companies are able to implement an organization culture that supports projects, the organization is able to experience the following benefits:
Projects will be aligned with corporate strategies, ensuring that business objectives are met.Projects come in on time, so your time to market is improved.

Projects come in on budget, potentially saving millions each year.

Projects meet customer expectations so customer satisfaction levels increase.

Project teams are more effective and efficient, leading to high morale and more dedicated staff.

How has your company supported one of your projects? How does their support or lack of support contribute to the success or failure of the project?

9 thoughts on “Establish an Organizational Culture that Supports Projects

  1. My company provides a pretense of support to our projects, but when actually required to make critical decisions, provide feedback or approval, support is all but lost. We are encouraged to be lean, nimble and agency like, but to me it seems there are too many layers that have to approve each decision to be successful in that desire. I think that not only does the organization need to support project management but also it needs to understand it’s own agility and ability to move at the speed of the organization. Unfortunately, we work in an environment where we are not encouraged to make decisions without approval and support; therefore we lack the ability to move forward when necessary in order to meet our timeline.

  2. My company is all about if the project can make or save us money. It changes rapidly too, one day we are going one direction, and the next day we are told to do the complete opposite to save the company a potential $4 million. Overall I would say though that my company does not really create support for projects overall, with a very top down structure it is more of you are doing this type of feel instead of lets all work together to accomplish this project if that makes sense. There are mini projects though that go throughout our company, they may not have project managers so to speak, but clusters of people working together on small projects, for those the company does a great job of facilitating progress. We have a lot of tools and programs to work with that really makes life easy on the smaller type of projects. We also have the freedom to kind of pick and choose on what we are going to work on when we want to work on it, so in a sense everyone manages their own daily schedule which creates a lot of flexibility.

  3. This post on organizational culture made me think about the conclusions from my master’s thesis research. I did a study comparing quality/process improvement methods (Lean, Six Sigma, Lean Sigma, PDCA, Total Quality Management) and performance (morbidity, mortality, patient safety indicator scores, readmission rate) for academic medical centers.

    I hypothesized that academic medical centers who used Six Sigma would have lower morbidity, lower mortality, better patient safety indicator scores and lower readmission rates than those who did not. My results showed no statistically significant relationship between specific quality/process improvement methods and performance.

    However, academic medical centers who used a quality/process improvement method and had a strong improvement culture performed better than those who did not. In addition, academic medical centers who had strong financials and strong leadership support from the top performed better than those who did not. This is important because establishing an organizational culture that supports improvement projects will improve performance.

  4. I am very surprised to hear that one of the main reasons that projects fail is due to it not aligning with the organization’s corporate strategy. I have worked in big organizations as a consultant and have not worked in a single project or estimated multiple projects that did not align with the org strategy. So I am indeed surprised to read so in this article. But I do agree that it is important to identify the organizational changes that may be necessary to facilitate the ideal organizational ‘project’ culture. For instance, take my most recent project at a major drugstore corporation. We faced very adverse conditions on the project. We pulled together as a team through those conditions to still deliver the project on time. While there was no ambiguity in the roles, responsibilities and deliverables expected for the project, the project owner was culturally insensitive in his comments about team members. We had a diverse team spanning North america, Europe and Asia. On many occasions, his demeanor and attitude was demoralizing for the team members. However on the other hand the PM , aware of the issue, compensated by being clear in his communications, honest and fair to team members. I would say if not for him, many team members would have quit thus jeopardizing the project. I can see how PCI can help mitigate such situations through its framework.

  5. This is an important post because it highlights something that many companies disregard. To hear the phrase “50% of global project fail” is deeply concerning. Some projects’ success or failure have a negligible effect on business operations. However, some projects are mission critical and can devastate an organization. I imagine the success rate of those more critical projects is slightly higher. My organization has mainly internal projects, but also several external projects annually. For these external projects, we have a dedicated project manager. Though the internal projects greatly outweigh these external projects, we have only once designated a project manager (because the scope was so large). Other than that, unofficial project managers manage the internal projects. These are employees with other day jobs and expertise in fields outside of project management. It is essential that organizations build around a project management culture because ultimately, most major items within an organization are projects.

  6. I agree with this article’s push towards organizations being the deciding factor of a project’s success/failure. In my company, there are so many opinions involved with the same goal that often projects are started and never finished. To streamline the process as of late, a project manager has been specifically designed to oversee its timeline and ensure a solution. While this may seem like a small step, for our Operations Department this is extremely huge and allows us organization never seen before. We now have solid accountability of work needed to be completed, as well specific personnel to hold credible. I admired how this article focused on the support of an organization playing a significant role in a project’s success, as without the support of our owner and president, many of our projects simply would not be done.

  7. I definitely agree with what both you and the article had to say about projects and their often disappointing outcome. The statistics that you provided were very eye opening and thought provoking. The fact that “only 2.5% of global businesses achieve 100% project success and over 50% of global business projects fail” is something that needs to be addressed. I know you mentioned that those statistics include both big and small projects, but no matter the size of the project, I can’t imagine a 50% success rate would allow an organization to continue to operate for very long. I think more organizations need to reevaluate the foundation of their teams, the project manager. If a project manager is not able to pull their team together and designate both properly and effectively- failure is inevitable.

  8. In order to deliver a project and see it to an end you need a manager; this person must poses the skills of a leader, strategist, and motivate workers to get involved. These are the skills that come with the knowledge and an experience, and at times not all have that skill. Being a project manager you should be able to have ability to plan, and take the risk when uncertainty arises. As said in the previous comment, I believe that working as a team that support each other and understand the outcomes of achieving the goal is one of the most important aspects of successful project. And in order to do so, you must have a leader who is going to inspire, and motivate his/her team. I think that as an organization, should be very selective and filter all people, and focus on how powerful, persuasive they are. They must also have the strength of not being afraid to correct actions needed to maintain or improve performance of their team.

  9. There is no set structure in my company or at least in my department (Finance) when it comes to projects. Most of the projects are system or automation related to improving our every day processes. Our input is requested but we usually have people from other departments (IS, Finance business systems, and upper management) spearheading the “projects”. I have never seen a project management group for a specific issue. Most of the time, many of these automated projects get pushed back when more pressing issues arise. There are really no set goals or measurements in assessing a “project” except the true need for automation. We have gotten to the point in our company where we can no longer meet the demand of the workflow but the company is unwilling to hire new personnel. This is when upper management is aggressive about implementing the automation projects and they get the priority they need.

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