Organizational leaders must have a reason to launch projects. The Standish Group conducted a survey of IT companies, and the results concluded that only 34% of all projects are completed. In my consulting work, I’ve learned that most organizations are often well below that mark regarding their project success.
My experience suggests that projects fail mostly because of the following:
(a) no business justification and mission alignment,
(b) lack of leadership funding and support, and
(c) lack of attention to a project management body of knowledge.
In other words, you must have a definable reason to launch a project, the leaders must provide the resources, and a plan is essential.
#1: Know Who You Are
Avoid trying to be everything to everyone. Those who have studied business understand the importance of sticking to your knitting. I remember learning that concept while taking General Business at Montezuma High School in Southwest Kansas. Even then, it made sense to me. You should focus on what you do well. To do that, you must conduct a strategic plan to know your core competencies. All projects that you launch must leverage your skills, assets, knowledge, and competitive edge. For example, Apple is committed to innovation, and Disney World wants to make people happy. Before you launch a project, have the end result in mind.
#2: Know Your Resources
Do you have the people, capital, and knowledge to launch the project? American mechanical engineer, Henry Gantt, created the Gantt Chart, which project managers use today as a graphic schedule to plan and control work. In essence, the chart is a tool for resource optimization. You must make sure you are assigning the right person to do the right job at the right time. To make those assignments, you must have the people in place, and they must have the time and skills to do the work. If they don’t, the project is destined to fail.
#3: Know Your Customer
Many projects are launched to improve organizational efficiencies and to generate revenue, and these projects are often internal in nature. In other words, the customer is the organization itself. If that is the case, you must understand the culture, and determine how it will help or hinder the success of the project. If the customer is external to the organization, it is critical that you leverage your communications plan. As the project manger, you must get sign-offs from the customer to ensure you are on the right track.
Project management is not for everyone. It is not enough to say that you have project management experience. You must have leadership skills to understand why the project is important, and how it will create value to the customer. In other words, project managers must have vision. Failing to have a plan will increase the likelihood of becoming part of the 34% group.