Project Management – Why it still doesn’t meet expectations

Greetings Leaders!

After managing projects for over 20 years, I’m still waiting for project management to meet the expectation that it will help businesses be more productive, efficient and cost effective. While it helps in many cases, it still falls short in many areas. The Standish Group’s Chaos Report has repeatedly shown that far too many projects are failing, despite the best efforts of project management. To be fair, not everyone agrees with the Standish Group. While not an easy read, you will find Samad Aidane’s article, The Chaos Report Mythbusters a pretty thought provoking critique of the Chaos Report. Based on my experiences though, it is easy to conclude that project management practices could be improved. I don’t think you will find anyone that would deny that there are many pitfalls associated with project management and that in many cases, it still hasn’t lived up to its expectations.

When we look at project management, there are many underlying reasons for project failure. If you google “project failure”, you will find hundreds of articles on this topic. I want to focus on just one. When looking at project failure, I believe it comes from a lack of leadership in all cases.

Poor leadership = Poor project execution

Here are the main culprits when it comes to leadership breakdowns in project management:

  1. Lack of Executive Alignment at the C-level on how projects are governed
  2. Inadequate project selection methodologies at the organizational level
  3. A PMO methodology that doesn’t support the organization’s culture
  4. No strategy to improve the organization’s project management maturity
  5. Inadequate training for ALL staff (Executives/Sponsors, Middle/Line Management, Project Managers, Project Staff)
  6. No consistent definition of project success across the organization
  7. Inconsistent oversight of project teams
  8. Low Emotional Intelligence of project team members
  9. No accountability for project results above the project manager
  10. Too heavy focus on processes instead of leadership

What are your thoughts?

All the best!
All the time!

2 thoughts on “Project Management – Why it still doesn’t meet expectations”

  1. John,

    I think you’re right. But what can a project manager do to succeed despite her limited control of how an organization is run?

    I still remember P4 development fondly, mainly because you were a pleasure to work with. You helped me see my value and potential when you helped establish electronic imports for the industry data we collect. l have found my niche in water quality data and databases, a path I began to forge way back then and one I expect to continue.

    Sincerely, Nicole

    1. Hi Nicole! It is so good to hear from you! It’s always humbling when I realize talented folks like you are out here reading my thoughts. Your question is a really good one! It’s all about managing stakeholder expectations. Something I like to do with all my new project owners, is to ask them what are their expectations? As the project progresses, you check back in periodically and ask them the same question. If something is not going as expected, you can dive in and look for the areas where the breakdown is occurring. Identifying it is one thing, fixing it is another. Sometimes it takes courage, on the part of leadership, to fix the problem. If they won’t stand up and do what’s right, then expect the project to be a difficult one. On the other hand, courageous leaders can have a huge impact on your project success. Be courageous! John

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