Project Management

Project Management (1)

Wednesday, 13 April 2016 12:17

Project Management Results - The Missing Element?

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Recent reviews of project outcomes have shown that in general, project performance is improving. Back in 1994, 17% of projects were successful and now we're up to an amazing 39%. Failed projects have nearly halved, but almost half of all projects are still "challenged". All of which leads me to ask if we are missing a key ingredient?

Over the last 20 years we have poured $trillions into training, better estimating tools, better tracking, better procedural methods for all project staff, not just the leaders. PMBOK and PRINCE2 have had enormous, positive impacts. So too have new methods for specific uses such as Agile, SCRUM and DMAIC.

But given this massive investment in projects every year, we have a global problem of wasted resource that could be used much more effectively. How many post-project reviews have been done? Have we learned anything new? Yes, there must be a factor that we are still be missing.

Projects almost invariably bring about change, whether it is small or large matters not - something is different when the project ends. We know that leadership capability is the driving force behind successful change management. Recent university studies now tie leadership capability with project success - a worthwhile street to go down. The early findings are showing that people with higher leadership scores in some key traits, do have more successful project outcomes than others, but not all the normal leadership traits are there. In fact some of the key traits, like 'strategic perspective' which should be an essential element, are missing.

Our own data on project leaders and outcomes shows that project leaders who have simply attended leadership development courses have slightly improved outcomes, but those with mentoring and coaching after the leadership course have a 15% better chance of a great project outcome. In fact we find that project managers have inordinately high scores in technical expertise relevant to their work, but low scores in fitting messages to different individuals. Even the way project managers are selected shows a bias towards functional knowledge and not the complete set of traits that suggest they might be successful leading people through change.

There is much more work to do to understand this phenomenon no doubt, but something is badly amiss and we need to understand it soon before too much more GDP goes down the drain.