The ChallengeDepending on their definitions of "success", the research consistently shows that only between 3-5 percent and 35 percent of projects are rated as successful. This means that around 2 in 3 of projects started will not be rated successful on the most generous definitions.
The really frightening aspect of these statistics is that they haven't improved since the first such study by AD Little in 1991.
I've been studying this topic — why do projects so often "fail" on one dimension or another — for 18 years. The results have shown that our current project delivery paradigms are flawed. Also, our approaches to solving this problem are flawed.
The most common reaction in the past 15 years is to address the symptoms, to try to avoid the issues and do anything but address the root causes.
Many organizations think they can solve the project delivery problems by doing what they do today only better. But you need to challenge the norms that pervade the project delivery industry.
It's time to accept that there is something fundamentally wrong with how we direct, control and deliver projects.
Project delivery approaches are like jigsaw pictures where the design of one piece dictates how other pieces need to be designed to fit together. Efforts to improve project delivery performance — by changing the design of one or more jigsaw pieces — rarely works well as you then have gaps and mismatches with the remaining project delivery pieces.
We need to not only change the design of the jigsaw pattern, we need to change the picture of project delivery it creates too.
There are 10 dimensions to project delivery and most are done poorly. It is not that those doing the activities are shirking their roles, but that the tools and approaches they are given are inadequate.
You need to accept the need to change and that many aspects of what you've always considered 'normal project delivery' need to either disappear or improve. Organizations need to make the changes and adopt newer, more mature approaches. And then measure the results — the increase in business value delivered, the reduced level of frustration with projects and the increased speed in which projects are delivered. Or, continue destroying value like you are today.
Some of the changes are significant, other changes are slight but have a dramatic effect. The danger is that stalwarts of the project delivery industry see these changes as incidental, of not having much impact. This is a false conclusion.
What we recommend is you try the different approaches and evaluate the results. As project managers you owe this to yourself as well as your organization.
Over the following few weeks we'll discuss each of the 10 dimensions and what needs to change.