Thursday, August 18, 2022

Why our projects fail

The last article described what a project is and now we will address the art and science of managing a project namely “project management”.

With a clear understanding of what a project is, we are in a better position to manage it better and appreciate the level of effort required to manage projects effectively.

Our projects in Botswana bear many symptoms that come out of poor management of the “temporary organisation…” that is geared at achieving a unique product or results. Like a typical corporate organisation, the “temporary organisation is expected to deliver pre-described results (from a documented business case).

A stadium in Masunga is expected to deliver a service to the community, an integrated IT system is expected to improve process efficiencies and reduce costs, a strategy programme is expected to deliver a more competitive business or improved services delivery. None delivery of such benefits at the end of a project simply means failure in the eyes of the customers.

When the project does not deliver on intended benefits as captured in the business case within the specified time and costs, then simply it has failed.

The project sponsor, project manager and rest of the team should accept, conduct a project retrospect for lessons learnt and disband or reconstitute the project. In the midst of these failed projects one would find that the “temporary organisation” was not managed well to enable it to deliver the expected benefits. In many cases in Botswana the problem is the poor appreciation of what it takes to manage a project effectively.

So let us now explore the definition of project management; “Project Management is the planning, organising, directing and controlling of assigned resources in order to accomplish a given objective within the constraints of time, cost and performance (PMI, 2008)”.

Note that this not too different from the role played by a manager in an organisation. So clearly managing a project requires the same level of management discipline as managing a department or organisation, albeit applying different processes and techniques.

Whenever we have an unqualified project manager running a project and not applying tested good best practices on the project then we really we should not be surprised when we get failures!

These project failures come about mostly due the following sample of causes in Botswana;
Poor definition of project requirements leading to confusion on what the project is to deliver.

Managing a project like it comprises of a group of individuals not working towards a common objective with little attention given to team cohesiveness, motivation and leadership.

Poor project planning has to take the price! Projects are initiated with inadequate scope definition leading to poor scheduling and project controls. Let us remember the saying that “fully planned is half complete”.

Like the temporary organisation, projects have to be managed in a holistic manner based the available Body of Knowledge areas such as PMBOK or similar in and integrated manner for execution. Scope, Schedule, Risks, Communication, HR, Quality, Procurement etc. all need to be addressed in an integrated manner for a comprehensive project execution plan. Whenever one aspect is overlooked, the excellent efforts on other areas will be compromised. You may have great engineering designs for a hospital project, but if hospital manpower requirements are not addressed the project can easily fail (i.e. not meet customer requirements/expectations).

This represents a sample of typical reasons for projects failure and these are mostly caused by the project team or owner not appreciating the level of intensity and rigour required to deliver projects successfully.

Taking time to interrogate the requirements of the projects and the governance processes required to deliver can save a lot of our projects from the current much regular failures. In the next article we will interrogate the meaning of project management further and its key components. For now check if you are adequately planning your project!

(Oabona Kgengwenyane is the Managing Director of InnoLead Consulting and X-Pert Group offering Management Consultancy, Project Management and Corporate Training solutions. He can be contacted on 3909102/ 71303682 and [email protected])

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