Your Project Just Got Hammered by the Media…

Most likely, the majority of projects we manage in our careers will be low profile or possibly high profile only internally to our companies.  However, as noted in class, there are high profile projects that are visible to the public and media which adds complications.  

We see in the news how the 2012 London Olympics has been plagued with issues.[1]  Having the public eye on every detail of a project can be a hard issue to deal with.  In my job function, we sometimes have to manage projects that are very public to the communities.  Performing real estate for a large manufacturer has been an interesting experience in that we deal with environment issues, decommissioning of plants, and acquisition of land for new buildings or other projects. 

The public isn’t always going to agree with projects that have public visibility.  In my role specifically, there could be labor disputes based on decisions to move a plant or warehouse.  There could be environmentalists that disagree with how or where a building is built.  Being a publicly traded company, these are real concerns for my company.  While we’re tasked to complete projects within budget and within time constraints, political opposition may change how this is done.

Assessing political risk can also be a guessing game.  It may be difficult to gage how a community is going to respond to different projects.  For instance, my company planned on redeveloping old and vacant manufacturing sites in the community into space used for additional housing, community centers, and tourist attraction.  It turned out that some of the neighboring communities disliked the project because it wasn’t going to accommodate all levels of the society.  While redevelopment of vacant and falling down manufacturing plants in our community seems like a no-brainer to some, not everyone agrees.

Companies that have public projects need to assess the political risk involved and weigh whether or not to continue.  Companies need to consider whether completing the project is worth having issues with the surrounding communities or they should find ways to compromise with those that disagree with the project.  Mass communication is making this topic more and more important as it is now easier for individuals to spread news on Twitter, Facebook, etc.

Does anyone else have any experiences they want to share regarding the management of public projects?  Do you agree that public projects require more risk analysis?  Can you share an example of a poorly managed political issue of a company?


Reasons for Project Failure

As the saying goes, “history has a way of repeating itself.”  That said, a good historian looks back at what has happened previously and avoids the same mistakes.  The above-referenced article deals with some of the main reasons why projects fail. 

Definition: “A project is considered a failure when it has not delivered what was required, in line with expectations.”

The below are main reasons why projects fail per the referenced article:

  • The wrong business requirements have been addressed
  • It’s not possible to deliver the business requirements
  • Poor governance
  • Implementation is poor
  • People lose focus on the project’s benefits
  • The environment changes


At first glance, the first two failures seem almost too simple to be on the list.  However, when you start reading through the article, you may find that these failures are easy to achieve.  The news is always scattered with project failures that have addressed the wrong business requirements because the requirements weren’t defined correctly at the beginning.  In addition to addressing the wrong business requirements, a poorly defined project has the risk of scope creep (expansion of the project scope) as well, often leading to costly and delayed projects.

 Failing to recognize that it’s impossible to deliver business requirements is also an issue in the project definition stage, but it is easy to do.  Business requirements may include resource restrictions, time constraints, or budget constraints.  I’m currently working on a project that this is a major concern of mine.  Often times, projects are started by someone higher up with a rosy picture of how the project will be completed.  Unfortunately, these can be tough discussions with managers that are passionate about particular projects.  I addressed the situation by seeking references with experience in the same type of project as well as defining the resource and activity requirements up front.

 In my experience, poor governance can really be a pain and may lead to additional work and rework.  I’ve been working on a project that several of the key stakeholders have not been that active throughout the project.  Now that we’re nearing the completion of our RFP process, these stakeholders have essentially said “time-out” in order for them to catch up on the project to ensure we followed all of the required steps that they failed to give us at the project startup. 

Lastly, I wanted to quickly discuss the environmental changes that impact projects.  I would say that this is the most difficult of the failures to address.  The article suggests (i) making timely decisions, (ii) considering smaller projects, and (iii) managing expectations as possible ways to manage environmental changes.  However, these solutions aren’t always appropriate or may not apply.  I worked on a project last year in which the timeline was based on the FASB/IASB (accounting standards boards) making a determination on a change before year-end.  The board’s timeline was pushed out for another year or two which ultimately killed my project.

What projects have you worked on in which the environment changed and what happened?