Projects fail from the start because employees fail to set them up to succeed. But what does that mean??   



There are 7 critical flaws to be aware of when managing projects:



1) The Lord Nelson Business Case

In the sales stage before the project starts, a Business Case must be created as a foundation for decision-making. A Lord Nelson Business Case is the result of people wanting so badly to start the project that they ignore, or grossly underestimate, significant negative consequences of the project, including cost, time, disbenefits and threats, and they inflate the benefits and opportunities: “The project is business critically for us, we must start it now!” Starting a project with a flawed Business Case could mean that serious negative consequences for the organization are ignored or badly managed. The Project Owner must do everything to avoid a Lord Nelson-Business Case.


2) The Senior Supplier has gone fishing

The Senior Supplier role hires the technical resources and assigns them to the project. If the Senior Supplier hires people that do not have the right competences or assigns people to the project that cannot put the required hours into the project, the project will struggle and may fail. It should therefore be clear that the Senior Supplier role must be de facto accountable towards the Project Owner for producing products that can meet the technical requirements.


The role should NOT be confused with the Project Manager who has a much broader responsibility: The Project Manager is responsible for ensuring that the project delivers the required products within three overall success criteria and the seven performance targets, as the project must be:


  • Valuable for the customer
  • A learning, uniting and energizing experience for the team.


The seven performance targets are:

A Senior Supplier, who does not put the hand on the hotplate when it comes to the technical solution but merely supplies resources, is a generic threat to a solution project. Being accountable for the technical solution requires a very active Senior Supplier who actively follows up on the team’s progress and the team members’ well-being.


3) All hat and no cattle

Project management is not about filing out templates, performing ceremonies or ticking of boxes in a process model, nor is it about technical know-how. Technical skills are needed at team-level, but not at the Project Manager level, nor at the Decision Board level.


Project management is a craft. To be a craftsman means being good at five hard skill areas. Each takes years to master. The “all hat and no cattle”-Project Manager may hold the title of “Project Manager” but is a master of none of the essential project management skill areas. Without these skills, the Project Manager will most likely focus on technical skills. This is a mistake. A project with a Project Manager who is not focused on applying the best practice project management hard skill areas has a high likelihood of struggling and failing to meet the three success criteria and seven performance targets.

4) QHSE Regulations & Standards

Who cares?! The customer cares! Quality is about fitness for purpose, which means ensuring that all aspects of the product will meet our customers’ expectations and needs, including legal requirements and industry standards within Quality, Health, Safety and Environment (QHSE). All industries are QHSE regulated, some very heavily, so if you want to deliver a valuable solution to the customer, you need to ensure that the deliverables adhere to the relevant QHSE regulations and standards. You may ignore the QHSE Regulations & Standards, but they will not ignore your project. The organizational landscape is littered with projects that failed horrifically because of this.


5) Planning? We have no time for that!

I am too busy with the project to plan! Like all our project management hard skill areas, planning is a process aimed at facilitating informed decision-making and enable monitoring the project’s progress in terms of produced, reviewed, and approved products. Planning is about rehearsing the project with the team to find the best journey towards delivering the required products to the customer. Specify the scope, clarify who will do what and when, and capture and analyze risks and issues that need to be addressed along the journey. Unfortunately, most plans are not really rehearsed with the team. Furthermore, the focus is on making a Gantt Chart to monitor time spent, NOT on making a plan that can help track actual and forecasted progress on produced, reviewed, and approved products. The way many of projects are planned makes it very difficult to manage the project proactively. Risks and issues will materialize into bigger problems or even explode into crisis with very little warning.


6) Ignoring important lessons from failed projects

Each solution project is an opportunity to i) Strengthen the company brand ii) Strengthen the customer relationship iii) Grow, unite, and energize the team iv) Provide ROI to the company’s shareholders, v) Help the customer succeed. When we fail, this is what we fail in and the lessons should be captured, analyzed, and responded to. When we fail with a project, there is a tendency to sweep the failure under the carpet and move quickly on to the next project. Consequently, projects struggle and fail due to the same risks and issues being ignored or otherwise badly managed.


6) We pay for the customer’s Request for Change

A Request for Change (RFC) occurs when the customer, as represented by the Senior Supplier(s) requests changes in the project scope or the quality of the product e.g., wants more features, functionalities or that the product adheres to QHSE standards or regulations that were not a part of the original agreement.


It is important to capture the RFC and analyze the full impact on the project i.e., on the three success criteria and seven performance targets.


A structured Request for Change-process requires clear baselines regarding scope and quality, which is done during Quality & Planning. It also requires high skills in the Business Case area. Low skills within Quality & Planning and Business Case will lead to unstructured Request for Change management, which will often cause trouble: A RFC will influence at least one but very often more of the seven performance targets:


  • Benefits
  • Costs
  • DIS benefits
  • Quality
  • Risk
  • Scope
  • Time


And therefore, one or more of the success criteria may be under siege as the project must be:


  • Valuable for the customer
  • A learning, uniting, and energizing experience for the team


It must be clear that unstructured Request for Change management ultimately means that the project has an increased likelihood of failing.