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?

Budget or quality? Or can we have both?

We all know and understand that all projects are not always successful.  There will always be projects and initiatives that will not have an expected positive result.

Chapter five discusses in detail about estimating project times and costs.  It discusses how it is important to understand the timeline for a project and understand the costs involved prior to heading into the project for it to be successful.

I work in an environment where the clients want tier 1 quality work but they only have budget for tier 3.  Often I hear the frustration from our sales staff that they had to decline a project at work because the expectations the client had, we could not meet with the budget they were playing with.

One would think that the client should know and understand the budget based on market rates.  However in the real world that is not the case.  The client wants the quality of the top company but will use the price estimates from a company that does not specialize in it.

For example, my company, Production Resource Group for many years partnered with NFL in providing the audio, video and lighting for the Superbowl halftime events.  The relationship between NFL and PRG had been really good as both sides were happy with the output.  In 2013, due to some budget constraints, NFL did not want to spend as much on the halftime show but expected a similar product as previous years.  After months of discussion back and forth, PRG determined they were going to decline the project as it was not possible for us to put on a high quality event with the given budget and PRG refused to provide a low quality output as PRG prides itself in the final product produced.

End result of the project was that 20 minutes after the halftime show ended the Superdome stadium where the Superbowl was being held, lost power.  When PRG goes into large project such as these, they often use the top companies in the industry to partner with.  Such as a power provider we use cost much more than what the budget allowed for.  Because the NFL went with multiple vendors to provide the audio, video and lighting for the halftime show, instead of PRG who is an all-in-one shop, there was a miscommunication between the vendors which resulted in a power loss.

Super Bowl Football

Chapter 5 talks about Strategic Misrepresentation where promoters underestimate the cost of a project and overestimate the project benefits in order to win approval.  This is likely the case that could have happened in this situation where the NFL was satisfied with the promises made by the vendors not realizing the consequences.

My question for everyone is that, when is the quality given a higher preference over cost?  Every day at work, all of us get opportunities to make decisions with this dilemma.  How do you determine whether to go with a proven partner vs. going with a new comer to save cost?


Superbowl Power Outage Article –

Obamacare: The Biggest Mishap in PM of 2013?

Projects rarely make news, but when they do, it is almost always because of their failures.  Obamacare was the biggest failure in Project Management during 2013.  It dominated the headlines and made many powerful people really sweat.  The question is really why Obamacare rollout was a complete disaster?  I am using this article from the Huffington Post to dive into the failings of Obamacare.


1. Obamacare’s rollout was unsuccessful because the timeline was developed by senior management that didn’t truly understand the scope of the work.

How many times has this happened to one of you?  You are given a project that you have deep understanding of, but you have little say in what the timeline will be.    Had a better timeline been developed, the rollout of Obamacare may be looked at completely different now.


2. #1 directly leads to the 2nd point.  Contracts were to contractors that gave the best price and timeline, whether or not it was realistic.

Obamacare was a classic example of over promising and under delivering.  Contractors were busy whispering sweet nothings into the Obamacare administrators’ ears, knowing that what they were selling was not possible.  They were doing what was necessary to win the contract.  How can we prevent this in our own careers?


3. The scope was ever-changing making it impossible to predict when a successful rollout could happen.

Scope creep is a problem that always seems to show up in projects and Obamacare was no different.  When the scope changed, the administrators had a choice whether or not to have a contract bidding war between contractors or to give the current contractors the work and simply agree to a scope change.  It was cheaper and faster (remember we are on a timeline here!) to agree to a scope change with the current contractors.


At rollout Obamacare was a complete failure.  The President even admitted this.  It offers many examples of what NOT to do when running a massive project.  I think the two main takeaways that I see are:

1. Communication between all layers of the organization is vital.  Senior management must communicate with those in the field to develop the project.  Senior managers do not know everything.

2. Having contractors that are trustworthy and won’t just tell you what you want to hear can lead to more successful project launches (even if they are a bit more expensive).

What do you think could have been done better?

Why project management fails?

Project failure
Project failure

In an interesting article that I have read called “ why does project management fail?”, the author tries to bring his own experience and theories into play. He starts talking about how many companies question themselves and that they think that project management is just just a mixture of tools and techniques that should guarantee their success.
As we learned in class, project management consists of two parts, the first one is dependent on science which are tools and techniques. The second is that its also an art, it is important to put in our mind that even with the best planing techniques possible, even if we put a contingency for every event, things still go wrong. It is in the art of project management that we learn how to adapt and move on to make something work.
The author goes on explaining that there are some factors which lead to the failure of project management in organisations such as the” Lack of knowledge, lack of organisational policy, lack of enforcement of policy and procedures, lack of consideration for the magnitude and complexities of project management”. It is true that project management tools are only as good as the people who use them and it is a philosophy that would work only if everyone in the organisation or at least the specific project is onboard.
Some times it is better to outsource, if a certain company doesn’t have enough knowledge/resources and doesn’t feel it has the discipline to adopt project management methodology. There are some companies whom specialize in consultancy and project management, in fact outsourcing could save those companies a lot of money and energy as well as add proficiency.
It is also important to look at the role of the project manager himself, we spoke in class about Active and reactive managers. I think that the article focuses on the benefits of active managers and dismisses reactive managers. It is true that being active means that you should be ready for different scenarios and prepare all contingencies in advance, but that is the science part. Reactive management is more like the art part where you would have to work with whats introit of you. A balance of the two is always needed, you don’t want to start a project without any plan, in the same same time you don’t want someone whom wouldn’t know how to respond when something goes wrong and he had no way of putting a contingency plan for it.
Some think that project failure is only due to not being able to deliver to costs or expected quality or even missing the deadline. Those are all valid reasons, but leadership and organisation philosophy is what could be put as the thin line between project success and project failure.


The three best lessons I learned from a failed project

Usually in our career we are looking to achieve successful projects, also we are studying the successful projects to learn how it was done.
But more experience we can get from failure projects, so that means even failure projects still marked as successes for us because we can learn more from it and also that will support in the future projects in order to do it successfully, so the failure project is not just time wasting.

You Fail!---keyboard

In the article, the writer mentioned three lessons from a failed and I do agree that these are the top lessons.
1- The project schedule is your friend
One of the major causes of project failure is the lack of having a detailed project schedule, schedule should be addressed with dates so the targets will be easy monitor, also milestones should be shown and tracked during the project execution, the critical path also should be addressed so the activities. Missing of tracking the project will not give a warning of the project issues so the corrective response might be coming very late, and that will have a huge cost impact.
The project schedule should be monitored and continually updated through the project period.

2- You can’t escape the project triangle even if you’re an executive
We know the triangle constraints which are time, cost and scope. Also, we know that we cannot change one of these constraints without affecting the others, for example, changing the scope will affect the cost and time of the projects. Changing the project scope by adding additional work to it should be in the initial stages of the, otherwise it will have a huge impact on it in case of it become in the final stages.

3- Project heroics only lead to project failure
Projects need to be done as a team there is no one person can deliver the full project, relying on one person will guide the project to the failure path.
The inspiration of the team work should be there between the project members, everybody should feel of it, and they might work together and trust each other to achieve the goals.
During the project lifecycle, there will be success and failures but if we do monitor and update the project with reference to our initial plan it will be easy to find the issues and the problems; so it can be corrected and solved at the proper time, and be able to catch up the project and finish it successfully.

I had been working in a project which falls behind schedule due to the lack tracking of the progress, since the project manager was focusing on bigger projects ignoring that small one, and that was a major cause of the project failure.




How to decrease chances of a project failure?

There is nothing more rewarding for a project manager than a successful completion of a project.  There are many factors that contribute to such an outcome. Successful projects need to be well planed, managed and executed and each of those phases has to be carefully prepared, implemented, and performed. If everything goes according to your plans, great… mission accomplished, but what if things turn up side down?

As a project manager you may encounter situations when some of the projects you were involved or led did not return the outcome you had expected. Sometimes, although you think that every aspect of the project has been thoroughly analyzed and prepared, the overall project outcome is a failure.  You start to think where the mistake has happened? What was missing or omitted?



One of the most common reasons for the project failure is actually inexperienced project manager(s).  In many situations, managers work under stress. Do they know how to handle it? Can they well understand and make right financial decisions? Can they run appropriate negotiations, solve unexpected issues, communicate required information to appropriate project group? Although it may sound ease, some especially young projects managers, may have problems with stress management and poorly perform under such situation. In critical moments, they may loose the objectivity and start to use false assumptions or just start to force things through.

Another common reason for a project failure may be lack of resources. To successfully complete any project the appropriate resources such as personnel, equipment, tools, etc. need to be provided.  Project resources are key to achieve the project’s goal. What is going to happen when we promise the project delivery on certain time with limited or inadequate (skillset) resources? How that goal can be achieved? Without required resources, the project delivery will be delayed, poorly completed, or completely fail. Often, to save money on the project, managers try to deliver the product on the minimum resources involved. In many occasions that saving turn out to bring more expense at the end than expected.

Poorly defined requirements are very well known reason for the project failure too. It is very important to clearly document what are customer’s expects and needs. It is crucial for any project to make sure that both sides of the contract understand the requirements. Additionally we need to make sure that those requirements are agreed to and signed off by the client before the project implementation phase. What would happen, if there were a situation in which the customer expects something different than what we believe they want?  What would happen if we started to implement the project, which was never approved and consigned by our customer?

Have you ever experienced a project failure? What was the cause of it? If not, what in your opinion are other reasons for the project failure?