Lead a project to success


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Lead a project to success

  1. 1. Lead a Project to Success By Chelse Benham "People aren't afraid of failure; they just don't know how to succeed. We are each responsible for our own success (or failure). Winning at what you do is no exception. To ensure a win, you must take a proactive approach. Prevention of failure is an important part of that process." – Jeffrey Gitomer, author Before you can successfully lead a project it is wise to know what causes a project to fail. By most statistics, failure is an extremely likely possibility. How possible? The Standish Group released some of the earliest numbers regarding failed projects in a cross section of large, medium and small companies across major industry segments, e.g., banking, securities, manufacturing, retail, wholesale, health care, insurance, services, and local, state and federal organizations. In its “CHOAS Report” released in 1994, the Standish Group found that only a mere 16.2 percent of all projects were completed on time and within budget with all features and functions as specified. That means 84.8 percent of projects failed in one or all of these areas. Jim Johnson, author of “Collaborating on Project Success,” released more recent statistics in 2000 that reflected an increase in project success from 16.2 percent in 1994 to 28 percent in 2000. Johnson attributes the increase to the Standish “Recipe for Success” established in 1998. Although there seems to be improvement in the success rate of projects undertaken, there is a staggering 70 percent failure rate still in effect. Agreeably, there will always be failure, but why should it be so disproportionately high? A simplified answer would be inexperience, poor planning, technical illiteracy and a lack of resources and support. However, the causes are more complicated than that. In a nutshell, The Standish Group identified 10 top factors why projects fail. They are: 1. Incomplete requirements 2. Lack of user involvement 3. Lack of resources 4. Unrealistic expectations 5. Insufficient executive support 6. Changing requirements and specifications 7. Lack of planning 8. Product is made obsolete 9. Lack of information technology management 10. Technical illiteracy
  2. 2. Furthermore, there are four things that foreshadow a project’s failure: lack of efficient internal and external communication, no effective decision making and not having productive teamwork. “Corporate America spends more than $275 billion each year on approximately 200,000 application software development projects. Many of these projects will fail, but not for lack of money or technology; most will fail for lack of skilled project management.” This statement found in the “CHAOS: A Recipe for Success” report. The report further defines, “Project management is a process that spans the full lifecycle of a project, from inception to completion. Its cornerstones are planning, execution and control of all resources, tasks and activities necessary to complete a project.” If you are looking for a tried-and-true method of success there is a formula that does work to reduce projects from failing. According to industry analysts three factors determine the success of a project: duration, team and project size. In basic terms, evidence found that the smaller the team and the shorter the duration of the project, the greater likelihood of the project’s success. It is also interesting to mention that these same statistics found no correlation between a company’s size and its project success rate. Bigger is not necessarily better. Incorporating measures of success is as important as avoiding the pitfalls in a project. As an international leader of project analysis, The Standish Group states the biggest contributors to project success are user involvement, executive support and a clear statement of business objectives. According to their findings, 50 percent of a project’s chances for success are found in these three areas! The “CHAOS Ten” – a list of 10 critical areas of project management that determine success developed by The Standish Group – outlines the other seven critical areas. Besides the top three listed above, the following are significant factors that affect a project: • Experienced project manager • The creation of small milestones • Firm basic requirements • Competent staff • Proper planning • Ownership • All other factors combined
  3. 3. It is necessary to point out that of all the factors mentioned the most important contributor to project success is user involvement. According to many experts, the absence of user involvement is the number one cause of project failure. A larger view of a project focuses on other areas of extreme importance: good planning, accountability of team members and schedule control. Initial planning is not enough. There must be back-up plans and fall-back positions to handle changes and pitfalls. To successfully plan for this, all team members must have a clear understanding of their roles and duties in the project. They must know how expectations versus achievements will be measured and graded. Therefore, a system of communication must be in place. A system of continual monitoring of time, milestones, people and production ensures this. To recap, listed below are areas that affect a project’s success: • Clearly defined project goals • Top management support • Competent project manager • User involvement • Skilled team members • Sufficient resource allocation • Adequate communication channels • Control mechanisms (planning, business plan, schedules) • Trouble-shooting sessions and fall-back positions Good project management is flexible and responsive. It considers all facets of the project and attends to every detail. To ensure your success keep your eye on the prize and your mind ready for adjustments.