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Projects fail when they lose touch with reality:  BCS - Dec 2012
Projects fail when they lose touch with reality:  BCS - Dec 2012
Projects fail when they lose touch with reality:  BCS - Dec 2012
Projects fail when they lose touch with reality:  BCS - Dec 2012
Projects fail when they lose touch with reality:  BCS - Dec 2012
Projects fail when they lose touch with reality:  BCS - Dec 2012
Projects fail when they lose touch with reality:  BCS - Dec 2012
Projects fail when they lose touch with reality:  BCS - Dec 2012
Projects fail when they lose touch with reality:  BCS - Dec 2012
Projects fail when they lose touch with reality:  BCS - Dec 2012
Projects fail when they lose touch with reality:  BCS - Dec 2012
Projects fail when they lose touch with reality:  BCS - Dec 2012
Projects fail when they lose touch with reality:  BCS - Dec 2012
Projects fail when they lose touch with reality:  BCS - Dec 2012
Projects fail when they lose touch with reality:  BCS - Dec 2012
Projects fail when they lose touch with reality:  BCS - Dec 2012
Projects fail when they lose touch with reality:  BCS - Dec 2012
Projects fail when they lose touch with reality:  BCS - Dec 2012
Projects fail when they lose touch with reality:  BCS - Dec 2012
Projects fail when they lose touch with reality:  BCS - Dec 2012
Projects fail when they lose touch with reality:  BCS - Dec 2012
Projects fail when they lose touch with reality:  BCS - Dec 2012
Projects fail when they lose touch with reality:  BCS - Dec 2012
Projects fail when they lose touch with reality:  BCS - Dec 2012
Projects fail when they lose touch with reality:  BCS - Dec 2012
Projects fail when they lose touch with reality:  BCS - Dec 2012
Projects fail when they lose touch with reality:  BCS - Dec 2012
Projects fail when they lose touch with reality:  BCS - Dec 2012
Projects fail when they lose touch with reality:  BCS - Dec 2012
Projects fail when they lose touch with reality:  BCS - Dec 2012
Projects fail when they lose touch with reality:  BCS - Dec 2012
Projects fail when they lose touch with reality:  BCS - Dec 2012
Projects fail when they lose touch with reality:  BCS - Dec 2012
Projects fail when they lose touch with reality:  BCS - Dec 2012
Projects fail when they lose touch with reality:  BCS - Dec 2012
Projects fail when they lose touch with reality:  BCS - Dec 2012
Projects fail when they lose touch with reality:  BCS - Dec 2012
Projects fail when they lose touch with reality:  BCS - Dec 2012
Projects fail when they lose touch with reality:  BCS - Dec 2012
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Projects fail when they lose touch with reality: BCS - Dec 2012

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Slides from my talk to BCS Edinburgh, 5 December 2012

Slides from my talk to BCS Edinburgh, 5 December 2012

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  • This is my journey to peel away several layers to understand where project failures come from: Surface reasons – the symptoms we see Underlying causes – the reasons the PM literature tells you about Root cause – why those underlying causes keep happening, even though we’ve known about them for decades(one of these at the core, driven by several factors)
  • Channel TunnelOver budget; late; bankrupted the company which built itEngineering masterpieceWhat does “failure” mean? Depends on timescale, perspective, etc – again, are a lot of agendas here
  • Start with some observations…All types of projects fail – engineering, IT, web, …This is as it should beProjects are by definition risky – they’re non-standard, one-off endeavours.We take on risks to achieve rewards. Sometimes the risks win.
  • Why projects fail (Chaos, OGC, book)Poor link between project and organisational objectivesUnclear scope & requirements – keep it fuzzy for political or other reasonsLack of executive commitment and involvement – they have to clear obstacles, set prioritiesUnrecognised change – to context (org objectives, competition, user requirements), scope, etc Unmanaged risks – often the undiscussablesPoor communications – within team, between team and sponsor, between team and external stakeholdersUnrealistic estimates, schedules, staffing / unrealistic assessment of tools and vendors
  • Why projects fail (Chaos, OGC, book)Poor link between project and organisational objectivesUnclear scope & requirements – keep it fuzzy for political or other reasonsLack of executive commitment and involvement – they have to clear obstacles, set prioritiesUnrecognised change – to context (org objectives, competition, user requirements), scope, etc Unmanaged risks – often the undiscussablesPoor communications – within team, between team and sponsor, between team and external stakeholdersUnrealistic estimates, schedules, staffing / unrealistic assessment of tools and vendors
  • Why projects fail (Chaos, OGC, book) Poor link between project and organisational objectivesUnclear scope & requirements – keep it fuzzy for political or other reasonsLack of executive commitment and involvement – they have to clear obstacles, set prioritiesUnrecognised change – to context (org objectives, competition, user requirements), scope, etc Unmanaged risks – often the undiscussablesPoor communications – within team, between team and sponsor, between team and external stakeholdersUnrealistic estimates, schedules, staffing / unrealistic assessment of tools and vendors
  • Why projects fail (Chaos, OGC, book)Poor link between project and organisational objectivesUnclear scope & requirements – keep it fuzzy for political or other reasonsLack of executive commitment and involvement – they have to clear obstacles, set prioritiesUnrecognised change – to context (org objectives, competition, user requirements), scope, etc Unmanaged risks – often the undiscussablesPoor communications – within team, between team and sponsor, between team and external stakeholdersUnrealistic estimates, schedules, staffing / unrealistic assessment of tools and vendors
  • Why projects fail (Chaos, OGC, book)Poor link between project and organisational objectivesUnclear scope & requirements – keep it fuzzy for political or other reasonsLack of executive commitment and involvement – they have to clear obstacles, set prioritiesUnrecognised change – to context (org objectives, competition, user requirements), scope, etc Unmanaged risks – often the undiscussablesPoor communications – within team, between team and sponsor, between team and external stakeholdersUnrealistic estimates, schedules, staffing / unrealistic assessment of tools and vendors
  • Why projects fail (Chaos, OGC, book)Poor link between project and organisational objectivesUnclear scope & requirements – keep it fuzzy for political or other reasonsLack of executive commitment and involvement – they have to clear obstacles, set prioritiesUnrecognised change – to context (org objectives, competition, user requirements), scope, etc Unmanaged risks – often the undiscussablesPoor communications – within team, between team and sponsor, between team and external stakeholdersUnrealistic estimates, schedules, staffing / unrealistic assessment of tools and vendors
  • Why projects fail (Chaos, OGC, book)Poor link between project and organisational objectivesUnclear scope & requirements – keep it fuzzy for political or other reasonsLack of executive commitment and involvement – they have to clear obstacles, set prioritiesUnrecognised change – to context (org objectives, competition, user requirements), scope, etc Unmanaged risks – often the undiscussablesPoor communications – within team, between team and sponsor, between team and external stakeholdersUnrealistic estimates, schedules, staffing / unrealistic assessment of tools and vendors
  • But we know all this stuff, and have known it for decades. Why aren’t we fixing it?The problem is in the timing:Running into reality makes the failures apparent – they actually happened a long time ago.To avoid disaster – catch them quickly, while they can be remedied and learned from.Why don’t we do this?
  • Why don’t we recognise failures earlier? Because projects are run by people.
  • Real issue is the perceptual and related biases that keep us from realityOverconfidence – all think we’re better than averageOversimplification – we build simple mental models to deal with reality, then treat them as realityAvoiding pain – put off unpleasant stuff in hope it will never happen (often happens even worse)E.g. avoid confrontation, avoid sense of “loss of mastery” / “loss of face”, cultural taboosConfirmation bias – look for info that confirms our judgementsRepetition bias – say it often enough & we’ll believe it ourselvesPerceptual biases – don’t recognise gradual trends until too late
  • Real issue is the perceptual and related biases that keep us from realityOverconfidence – all think we’re better than averageOversimplification – we build simple mental models to deal with reality, then treat them as realityAvoiding pain – put off unpleasant stuff in hope it will never happen (often happens even worse)E.g. avoid confrontation, avoid sense of “loss of mastery” / “loss of face”, cultural taboosConfirmation bias – look for info that confirms our judgementsRepetition bias – say it often enough & we’ll believe it ourselvesPerceptual biases – don’t recognise gradual trends until too late
  • Real issue is the perceptual and related biases that keep us from realityOverconfidence – all think we’re better than averageOversimplification – we build simple mental models to deal with reality, then treat them as realityAvoiding pain – put off unpleasant stuff in hope it will never happen (often happens even worse)E.g. avoid confrontation, avoid sense of “loss of mastery” / “loss of face”, cultural taboosConfirmation bias – look for info that confirms our judgementsRepetition bias – say it often enough & we’ll believe it ourselvesPerceptual biases – don’t recognise gradual trends until too late
  • Real issue is the perceptual and related biases that keep us from realityOverconfidence – all think we’re better than averageOversimplification – we build simple mental models to deal with reality, then treat them as realityAvoiding pain – put off unpleasant stuff in hope it will never happen (often happens even worse)E.g. avoid confrontation, avoid sense of “loss of mastery” / “loss of face”, cultural taboosConfirmation bias – look for info that confirms our judgementsRepetition bias – say it often enough & we’ll believe it ourselvesPerceptual biases – don’t recognise gradual trends until too late
  • Real issue is the perceptual and related biases that keep us from realityOverconfidence – all think we’re better than averageOversimplification – we build simple mental models to deal with reality, then treat them as realityAvoiding pain – put off unpleasant stuff in hope it will never happen (often happens even worse)E.g. avoid confrontation, avoid sense of “loss of mastery” / “loss of face”, cultural taboosConfirmation bias – look for info that confirms our judgementsRepetition bias – say it often enough & we’ll believe it ourselvesPerceptual biases – don’t recognise gradual trends until too late
  • Real issue is the perceptual and related biases that keep us from realityOverconfidence – all think we’re better than averageOversimplification – we build simple mental models to deal with reality, then treat them as realityAvoiding pain – put off unpleasant stuff in hope it will never happen (often happens even worse)E.g. avoid confrontation, avoid sense of “loss of mastery” / “loss of face”, cultural taboosConfirmation bias – look for info that confirms our judgementsRepetition bias – say it often enough & we’ll believe it ourselvesPerceptual biases – don’t recognise gradual trends until too late
  • These combine with organisational and political pressures (exacerbated by complex stakeholders)Politics exacerbates fears of loss of face and etcOrganisations reward overconfidenceOrganisations repeat the messageGroupthink creates overconfidence
  • Keeping in touch – Independent viewpointReviews
  • Keeping in touch – Iterations = clear, tangible visibilityAGILE – e.g. lots of SCRUM at JBOYE
  • Keeping in touch – Metrics
  • Keeping in touch – Plan with a view to keep track of where we are, not to follow slavishly – Think visibility, not adherence to plan…
  • Keeping in touch – Watch for programmes (fuzzy deliverables & ongoing rather than point in time delivery) – Change the organisation go into production – reporting, metrics, pace, etc all changeKANBAN
  • Keeping in touch – Communication = listening, not talking
  • To learn from failure, you want it to happen in small, frequent increments – that’s the type you can learn from.To do this, you need to be constantly watching for it.
  • Transcript

    • 1. Projects fail when… … they lose touch with realityProjects fail when...Dec 2012 1
    • 2. Projects fail when...Dec 2012 2 hendriko
    • 3. Failure can be ambiguousProjects fail when...Dec 2012 3 Bitman
    • 4. Beware of agendas!Projects fail when...Dec 2012 4
    • 5. Projects FailProjects fail when...Dec 2012 5 pri.studio360
    • 6. Projects fail when...Dec 2012 6 Ville Miettinen
    • 7. Earthquake Aftershocks  Days until Slipdelivery date Lead Time Projects fail when...Dec 2012 7
    • 8. • 9 months of smooth running • Then magnitude of task suddenly hits (stress builds to point where something gives) • PMs asked for what they thought they could get, not what they needed  • Anchored by proximity of deadline Slip Lead Projects fail when...Dec 2012 8
    • 9. Project Management LiteratureProjects fail when...Dec 2012 9
    • 10. Poor link to organisational objectivesProjects fail when...Dec 2012 10 lsie esq.
    • 11. Unclear scope and requirementsProjects fail when...Dec 2012 11 Green-Ghost
    • 12. Lack of executive commitment / involvementProjects fail when...Dec 2012 12 jurvetson
    • 13. Unmanaged change Projects fail when... Dec 2012 13 Hamed Saber
    • 14. Unmanaged risks (often undiscussables)Projects fail when...Dec 2012 14 qmnonic
    • 15. Poor communications (internal and external)Projects fail when...Dec 2012 15 aturkus
    • 16. Unrealisticestimates, schedules, staf fing, toolsProjects fail when...Dec 2012 16
    • 17. So what? We already know all this stuff.Projects fail when...Dec 2012 17
    • 18. We lose touch with reality as we estimate, negotiate, track progress, … Project failures becomeapparent when we run into reality Note: The failure actually happened long before it became apparent. To avoid disaster, identify the failure while it can be remedied and learned from. Complexity, optimism, power games, cognitive biases, fear all exacerbate the problem Much project management is about building mechanisms to Projects keep in touch with reality fail when... Dec 2012 18 Simon Schoeters
    • 19. Because projects are run by people…Why don’t we recognise failures earlier?Projects fail when...Dec 2012 19 Marcin Wichary
    • 20. OverconfidenceProjects fail when...Dec 2012 20 jack_spellingbacon
    • 21. OversimplificationProjects fail when...Dec 2012 21 futureatlas.com
    • 22. AnchoringProjects fail when...Dec 2012 22 kainet
    • 23. Avoiding painProjects fail when...Dec 2012 23 annia316
    • 24. Confirmation biasProjects fail when...Dec 2012 24 Antoaneta
    • 25. Projects fail when... Repetition biasDec 2012 25 Madzik
    • 26. Perceptual biasesProjects fail when...Dec 2012 26 condour
    • 27. Projects fail when...Dec 2012 27 lostajy
    • 28. What can we do?Projects fail when...Dec 2012 28
    • 29. Control parameters Baseline Criteria Reference Feedback Models to improve reference modelsInputs Review execution OutputsArtefacts & other Analysis Loopitems to review, plus Go / No -go Improvedsupporting details. decision. artefacts. Recommendations to improve review artefacts Reviews Projects fail when... Dec 2012 29 AlphaGeek
    • 30.  Slip Lead Projects fail when...Dec 2012 30
    • 31. • Surfaced concerns earlier• Helped people plan before asking• Gave courage to ask for what they needed• Sponsored an informed debate  Slip 3 months • People generally knew what was wrong with their projects Lead  • Reviews surfaced information, they didn’tProjects fail when... create itDec 2012 31
    • 32. Small chunksProjects fail when...Dec 2012 32 oskay
    • 33. MetricsProjects fail when...Dec 2012 33 kakutani
    • 34. Plan for change(Plan as guide, not crutch)Projects fail when...Dec 2012 34 sidstamm
    • 35. Understand boundary between project and operationsProjects fail when...Dec 2012 35
    • 36. CommunicateProjects fail when...Dec 2012 36 ky_olsen
    • 37. Summary Two types of failure a) Failure you learn from b) Failure that kills you We engage with risks to achieve rewards Sometimes the risks win Complexity and intangibility exacerbate the risks We recognise failure when we run into reality If we keep in touch with reality, the bump is less dramatic Watch reality, not the planProjects fail when...Dec 2012 37
    • 38. Thank Yougraham@grahamoakes.co.uk@GrahamDOakesProjects fail when...Dec 2012 38
    • 39. Graham Oakes Ltd Making sense of technology…  Many organisations are caught up in the complexity of technology and systems.  This complexity may be inherent to the technology itself. It may be created by the pace of technology change. Or it may arise from the surrounding process, people and governance structures.  We help untangle this complexity and define business strategies that both can be implemented and will be adopted by people throughout the organisation and its partner network. We then help assure delivery of implementation projects. Clients…  Cisco Worldwide Education – Architecture and research for e-learning and educational systems  Council of Europe – Systems for monitoring compliance with international treaties; e-learning systems  Dover Harbour Board – Systems and architecture review  MessageLabs – Architecture and assurance for partner management portal  National Savings & Investments – Helped NS&I and BPO partner develop joint IS strategy  The Open University – Enterprise architecture, CRM and product development strategies  Oxfam – Content management, CRM, e-Commerce  Thames Valley Police – Internet Consultancy  Sony Computer Entertainment – Global process definition  Amnesty International, Endemol, tsoosayLabs, Vodafone, …Projects fail when...Dec 2012 39

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