Project Smart ~ Exploring trends and developments in project management today

Calendar iconNot recorded
Adobe PDF icon

The PM Paradox: Why Projects Fail Despite Best Practices and Skilled PMs

~ By Emory Miller

Compass showing success and failure

I like to think of programme management as business lessons learned because it is the experiences and successful practices that help us understand how to manage effectively and efficiently. I also like to think of programme management as an open-source discipline, because we, as a community of practitioners, continue to contribute to its growth, success, relevancy, and acceptance.

We celebrate in its success. The practice of programme management by organisations worldwide has consistently resulted in highly successful programmes and results. Unfortunately, we are also aware of many failed programmes. The PM Paradox describes the dilemma this way: "Why do major programmes and projects fail, some with dramatic results, when we have such a long history of best business practices, documented in a precise discipline called programme management, and practiced by fervent and highly skilled practitioners?" Said another way: "With well laid plans and well executed launches, why do projects, months later, fail to achieve their cost, schedule, and performance goals?" I suggest the answer is simple, we don't execute well.

We plan diligently and launch our projects with all of the best intentions but we don't follow through during the execution phase with the same level of perseverance that we begin with. Project management is not about executing a perfect project plan. It is about steering a path to a set of goals. Projects live in a real world and project paths wiggle as they are affected by day-to-day influences. The role of the project manager is to know the true status of his or her project at every point in time and to make real-time decisions to adjust the project, as it wiggles, to ultimately attain its established cost, schedule, and performance goals.

So one question remains and begs to be answered: "How do you consistently know the true status of your project?" I suggest you know it through Independent Program Oversight.

Independent Programme Oversight, or IPO, is a support function performed by highly skilled practitioners in programme management who are fiercely independent of biases and political influences. These individuals are accountable and loyal only to the project manger. They are single-purposed in that their job is to make sure the project leader knows the project's true status in two ways: its adherence to programme management principles and its progress toward its set cost, schedule, and performance goals. The inherently fundamental role of a project manager is to make informed decisions consistently over time in response to changes in the project or its environment. The IPO allows him or her to do just that.

In providing this transparency of status, the IPO is also available to perform tangential functions requiring an independent perspective. The IPO:

  • Conducts multidisciplinary reviews at designated decision milestones to evaluate programme and project objectives, efficiencies, and effectiveness.
  • Provides independent assessment of cost and schedule compliance, earned value reports, and methodologies.
  • Recommends approaches for programmatic and technical risk mitigation.
  • Provides independent due diligence on critical risk aspects of programmes and projects.
  • Improves the agency's independent programme and project review processes through synergistic relationships with other agency review organisations.
  • Assesses process maturity against accepted standards of performance.

Oftentimes, as we consider the tough challenges of the business world, we resort to saying "there is no silver bullet." I suggest a different mindset, though. I suggest programme management is a silver bullet. Projects planned and executed in accordance with sound business practices are successful. The PM Paradox dissolves as project leaders stay informed and make real-time decisions that steer projects to successful conclusions.


Emory Miller is a Senior Vice President with Robbins-Gioia, LLC, a programme management consultancy headquartered in Alexandria, Virginia. He can be reached at emory.miller@robbinsgioia.com


Comments

Be the first to comment on this article.

Add a comment



(never displayed)



 
2000
Enter the fifth word of this sentence.
Notify me of new comments via email.
Remember my form inputs on this computer.

Is Your Project Proposal READY?

Businessman saying: Are you ready in retro style pop art

The mnemonic READY is useful when creating a project proposal. It will help you produce a project proposal that's difficult to ignore.

Coming to Terms With the Finish Date

Colourful calendar pages

Every project has a finish date. This article looks at how the finish date for a project is derived and how a project team comes to terms with that date.

How to Get the Most From Your Project Team

Project team in a huddle

Project management is people management. Here's our reminder of how to make sure you get the most from your project team.

Estimating Project Costs

Money and a calculator

Tips and advice for estimating project costs, including three point estimating and Monte Carlo Simulation in MS Excel.

PROJECT SMART is the project management resource that helps managers at all levels improve their performance. We provide an important knowledge base for those involved in managing projects of all kinds. With weekly exclusive updates, we keep you in touch with the latest project management thinking.

WE ARE CONNECTED ~ Follow us on social media to get regular updates and opinion on what's happening in the world of project management.


Latest Comments

Adrian C commented on…
The Role of the Project Manager
- Wed 31 October 11:11pm

Rose Mitchell commented on…
Project Planning a Step by Step Guide
- Tue 23 October 12:05pm

Jo Day commented on…
The Role of the Project Manager
- Tue 16 October 8:19pm

Latest tweets

General Project Management • Re: Recently passed the PMP exam. Read my story https://t.co/lMO1lYqllz about 17 days ago

General Project Management • Critical Factors for Project Success in Plan-Driven and Agile Methods https://t.co/DOxgvkBIlf about 27 days ago

General Project Management • Re: Which Project Phase is HyperCare? https://t.co/nqDy8fAK7q about 1 month ago