Why do Projects Fail?

Regardless of efforts put in projects, they do not always end up being completed. The reasons why these projects do not see the light of day can sometimes be attributed to the actions and inactions of project managers and stakeholders. The following are some of the reasons why projects fail.

First and foremost, organizations fail at projects because they sometimes have unclear project objectives. Management set up several targets that are unrealistic to achieve due to time and budget. Many organizations get so busy trying to get the job done, forgetting the key components of success. Every project team needs time out to meet and discuss goals and strategies to reach project goals.

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Moreover, some projects fail due to problems with leadership. Failure on the part of the project manager to find the right level of oversight often times causes the project team to become unmotivated. Hence, making the project to run out of control. Another important cause of project failure is poor communication. Communication issues range from lack of defining what is expected of each member of the team and not communicating the quality requirements of the project.

When members do not have clearly defined roles about what they are expected to do, it leads to overlapping of functions. Unclear roles and responsibilities lead to confusion and gaps. This failure to set up effective communications between individuals, groups or organizations undertaking the project results in the project not being successful.

Lastly, projects also sometimes fail because those who actually perform the work are excluded from the estimation process. Estimation is one of the fundamental reasons why projects fail. When estimation is done based on insufficient information/analysis, projects are very likely to fail. Even after making an estimate, failure to make contingency plans against unknown obstacles which might be encountered can result in the project failing.

Moreover, projects also fail during the testing stage when the test environment that is configured is totally different from the target production, or operational environment in which the project’s deliverables will be used.

If you see something, say something.

To read more on Project Management topics:

Project Risk Management

Cause and Effect Diagrams 

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Effective Project Communication

Effective communication must be applied throughout the life cycle of a project. Good communication is essential to the success of a project. Nothing is more important to the success of a project than effective communication. Effective Communication involves being fully engaged with everyone on the project team.

Communication can take place in an active or passive manner. Examples of active communication include face to face meetings, video conferences, meeting one on one, or group, telephone conference, webinars, and via the telephone. Passive communication includes email, intranet bulletin boards, blogs, website, and project newsletter – paper-based.

Effective communication involves the use of both active and passive communication. Choice of techniques is based on the situation at hand since projects are usually fluid by nature and ever-changing. Communication involves clear communication of goals, responsibility, performance, feedback, and expectations. In order to make good communication plans, the project manager can ask and address questions such as who needs to be communicated with, how frequent communication is required, and what needs to be communicated. These enable the project to become stronger and easily attainable since it helps to:
• Articulate project goals and objectives
• Communicate risks and issues and possibly solve them
• Build strong team bond
• Understand each team member’s roles and their overall impact on the project
• Enjoy work

Although the Project manager may form plans regarding how to achieve effective communication on the basis of these questions listed above, he/she must be ready to make adjustments and changes when the need arises. The qualities of effective communication involve providing only the information needed, in the right format, at the right time, to the right audience and with the right impact.

To conclude, effective communication is of cardinal importance to the success of a project. Hence, effective communication is required throughout the project cycle. Good communication planning is important in achieving effective communication.

Plan what to say, before you say it.

What makes a good Project Manager

A project manager is a person who plans and co-ordinates tasks, people, and resources to complete a project on time and on budget. To be a good project manager, you need appropriate knowledge, tools, skills, and techniques that will help you to achieve the project goals. Project manager skills are a range of abilities and qualities that allow an effective project manager to communicate, manage, and lead projects to a successful end. Besides, an effective project manager excels at administering and coordinating groups of individuals by promoting teamwork, delegating tasks, resolving conflict, setting goals, and evaluating performance.

Leadership is one of the most important qualities a good project manager must possess. A good leadership is about inspiring others to work with you and the team. In addition to leadership skill, a good project manager not only has excellent communication skills but also is able to create an environment in which everyone can communicate effectively. Analytical thinking is a crucial skill set every project manager should have. It includes a methodical approach to thinking and the skill to break down complex problems into simpler components. The risk management aspect of a good project manager is predicting and creating solutions to issues before they arise. This help to increase the chances of delivering projects successfully.

In general, a good project manager’s responsibilities fall under the wide umbrella of “keep a project on goal”. He or she must define what the project will achieve and then ensure it meets the goals of the organizations. More so, he or she must understand that leadership and soft skills are also important as good methodology and project tracking tool. Most importantly, a good project manager should be able to give credit, nurture creativity and support team members in taking a calculated risk so as to deliver project success.

Let’s walk the talk.

 

Cause and Effect Diagrams

There are a number of management tools used in an organization and in the management of projects. One of such tools is the Cause and Effect Diagrams. It is also called Ishikawa or Fishbone Diagram. Most organizations make use of the Cause and Effect Diagrams. A Cause and Effect Diagram is a management tool that helps identify, sort and display possible causes of a specific problem or quality characteristics. It graphically illustrates the relationship between a giving outcome and all factors that influence the outcome. In simple terms, it’s a diagram that identifies possible causes for an effect or problem.

Problems exist in organizations and the Cause and Effect Diagram helps us identify those problems. These are the steps that can be followed to construct a Cause and Effect Diagram.

Identify the Problem:

Identifying the problems is the first step in constructing the diagram. One way most people do that is to write down all possible causes of the problem. Questions you can ask yourself include what is the problem, when does it occur, where it occurs and who is involved.

Identify Major Factors:

Out of the list you created, you try to identify the most important factors that is causing the effect.

Identify Causes:

Work on one factor at a time, identifying all possible causes till you walk through all the factors. Add this causes horizontally as the fish bones and label them.

Below is an example of a Cause and Effect Diagram

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The importance of the Cause and Effect Diagram is, it helps us identify the cause and effect of problems facing an organization and a project.

 

 

Team Building Techniques

Every organization these days perform their operations in teams. Projects are also executed using teams. Team building programs can be found everywhere nowadays. Team building focuses on improving the group dynamics of the target team. The entire team usually undergo these team building programs. It is the various types of activities used to enhance social relations and define roles within a team, often involving collaboration tasks. It is distinct from team training which is designed to improve the efficiency, rather than interpersonal skills. Team building activities help to improve the trust between the team members. A common example is the blinded guidance.

The following are some benefits gained from team building;

  • High team productivity through understanding
  • Enhanced management and soft skills
  • Enhanced relationships
  • Improved communication with the rest of the team
  • Ease the conflicts and frustrations in the workplace and especially within the team

Some team building activities include project conferences, workshops, outdoor sports and guidance programs. For any team, regardless of what they should be collectively achieved, team building is a key strength. In order to get the best out of a team, the team should go through team building programs.

 

Project Management Tools

Project management is one of the most responsible process in modern organizations. Project management practices are used to manage many types of projects ranging from simple manufacturing to complicated stuffs. In order to execute a successful project, good project management practices have to be applied. Also, the required staff and technical know-how is required to execute a successful project. The use of tools to manage projects eventually result in the success of the projects. These are some of the tools use in project management.

Project Plan

Any successful project should have a good plan. The plan should include the blue print about how the project is to be executed. The project plan defines the project scope, the approach or methodology to be used in executing the project, the timeline associated with the project and the project budget. The project plan should also define the resources to be used in executing the project.

 

Gannt Chart and the Work Breakdown Structure

Gannt Chart illustrates the project schedule and shows the project manager the interdependencies of each activity involve in the project. The work breakdown structure (WBS) is a key deliverable that organizes the team’s work into manageable sections. The PMBOK defines the work breakdown structure as “a deliverable oriented hierarchical decomposition of the work to be executed by the project team.” There are many ways you can create the Gannt Chart. Excel can be used in creating the Gannt Chart if it is a small project. However, MS Project can be used in creating the Gannt Chart for bigger projects. MS Project can also be used in creating the WBS.

 

Project Management Software

There are several software specifically developed to help project managers and organizations manage their projects effectively. MS Project is one of the most common tools used. Other software that can be used in managing projects include Dapulse, WorkFront-Project, Workzone, ProWorkFlow, just to mention a few.

 

Milestone Checklist

Milestones are tools used in project management to mark specific points along the project lifespan. Project managers use this tool to determine whether the project is on track or not. The milestone document should be updated often to make sure that it is achieving its purpose.

 

Score Cards

Score cards can basically be defined as a card or sheet in which scores are entered and used to measure achievement or progress towards a particular goal. The score card is another important tool the project manager can use to measure the performance of the project team and reporting performance to the upper management and HR.

All these tools can help an organization and the project manager execute a successful project.

Project Management Office (PMO)

When organizations grow and they become bigger, they create various offices or departments to handle processes in the organization. One of those offices created by the organization is the Project Management Office (PMO). The Project Management Office (PMO) is an entity created for governing the processes, practices, tools and other activities related to project management in the organization. The project manager usually heads the PMO. When selecting people for the PMO, the organization looks for qualifications such as the PMI certification and great experience from managing projects.

When the organization is too small to have a PMO, they traditionally see the PMO as an overhead. When it’s a small organization, it can be very expensive for the organization to maintain a Project Management Office. Small organizations use their overhead staff in executing projects. Other activities that they cannot handle are outsourced.

The advantages of the project management office include:

  • Project support: Provide project management guidance to project managers in business units.
  • Portfolio management: Establish a staff of program managers who can manage multiple projects that are related, such as infrastructure technologies, desktop applications and so on, and allocate resources accordingly.
  • Project management software tools: Select and maintain project management tools for use by employees.
  • Internal consulting and mentoring: Advise employees about best practices.
  • Training: Conduct training programs or collect requirements for an outside company

A successful project management office can enhance the productivity of the project teams and cause a lot of cost savings. In addition to that, it can make the organization a more matured and capable entity.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Project Risk Management

Risk is inevitable when undertaking projects. However, the project manager must ensure that risks are kept to its minimal. The project manager must also have contingency plans to mitigate risk when they occur. Project risk are events that happen that can positively or negatively affect the success of the project. We generally have two types of risk. We have positive risk and negative risk. Positive risk is an upside opportunity for the project. Negative risk is an uncertain event that has a negative impact on the project.
Project risk management can be broken down into the following:

  • Risk Identification
  • Risk Qualification
  • Risk Response
  • Risk Monitoring and Control

It is very difficult when it comes to identifying and naming risks that is possible to occur during the execution of a project. Risks can be identified through processes like brainstorming or strategies. Resource risk occurs when the people used for a project do not have the required skills to undertake the project. Budget risk occurs if there is the tendency for the cost of project exceeds the budget of a project.

Risk can be evaluated by quantifying the risk. Risk quantification is important because it helps the project manager analyze the likely chances of that risk occurring. Matrices can be used to quantify the possibility of risk occurring. Risks can be quantified as low, medium, critical or high depending on the possibility of it occurring.

Risk responses can be categorized into the following:

  • Acknowledge the risk
  • Pass on the risk
  • Take corrective measures to reduce the impact of the risk
  • Avoiding the risk

Risks should be monitored continuously through the project.

 

 

 

Lessons Learned

Lessons Learned or Lessons Learnt are experiences distilled from a project that should be actively taken into account in future projects. Lessons learned can be applied to every aspect of our everyday life. In life, we are faced daily with tough challenges and choices to make which we learn lessons from. The North American Space Agency defines lessons learned as “knowledge or understanding gained by experience”.

In project management, lessons learned cannot be over emphasized. The lessons learned document is a document where team members share all the lessons they learn over the course of a project. As a project manager, it is important to hold a “Lessons learned” session at the end of the project. This section focuses on identifying and documenting ideas and experiences that promoted project success/failure. This document helps future project performance by helping reduce the occurrence of the same mistakes that occurred on previous project.

Life itself can be considered as a project. Life as a project begins when we are born and it ends, when we die. Lessons learned can be applied to our everyday life. We learn useful lessons in life right from our childhood to our adulthood. When we take serious the lessons we learn as we progress in life, it will go a long way to help us structure our future and not ending up doing the same mistakes we did earlier on in life over and over again.

When lessons learned are accorded the most importance it deserves, it goes a long way in helping us executing future projects by helping the project manager and the project team bring on board important ideas and information that help previous projects succeed or fail.