Colin D Ellis
Leadership | Culture | Success
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Organisational capability programs

Projects continue to fail – it doesn't have to be this way

In 2018, the world is forecast to spend almost $4tn on projects, with $1.8tn being spent on digital transformation alone. Without good project managers, most of this money will be wasted.

Projects are a statement of intent to customers and competitors about how a company can innovate, create and stay ahead of the market. And yet, too many projects and too many project managers miss their targets. The numbers make for dismal reading, with less than a third of projects considered successful worldwide, a number that has remained unchanged for 10 years. A statistic that is both demoralising and, frankly, embarrassing.

In order to meet the increasing demand, project management and the way we develop our people, has got to change.

How have we ended up in this situation?

  • Senior managers see projects as an extension of their BAU role - it’s not
  • People lose interest in projects when the ‘newness’ has worn off
  • We assume that everyone has the skills to manage projects - they don’t
  • We ask project managers to skip planning to improve speed of delivery - it doesn’t
  • We think implementing process and templates will provide consistency - it won’t
  • We put the emphasis on budget and time rather than customer satisfaction
  • Not enough is done to engage stakeholders early enough so they support projects
  • We don’t know how to recruit or develop project managers and;
  • If all else fails, we think ‘going agile’ will change everything - it won’t.

It doesn’t have to be this way. I’m working with many organisations who’ve chosen to learn from these failures and invest in a development approach to make their project people role models for great delivery, providing almost immediate results.

How can we fix it?

  • Ensure that senior managers fully understand what they need to differently
  • Invest in the so-called soft skills required to become leaders not managers
  • Develop variable communication styles to keep everyone engaged throughout
  • Change the way that you measure success
  • Reduce the complexity of the toolkit provided to project managers
  • Define and evolve delivery cultures so that they provide a breeding ground for success
  • Hire project people in the right way by focusing on behaviours not certificates.

The best projects are a result of the person that leads it (leadership) or the environment they create (culture). My programs focus on these two areas. They provide senior managers and project managers alike with the knowledge and skills to inspire and motivate others to do great things and change the delivery culture forever. And unlike ‘traditional’ certification courses, they are proven to work.

Good enough stopped being good enough a long time ago, why not be great?
— Seth Godin

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