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Some simple truths about project success

Several recent surveys show that the number of larger projects which are truly successful is well under fifty per cent. Some are outright failures; others fail to fulfil business objectives in some way or other. The larger a project is, the more likely it is to fail – and this is across all sectors. Almost half of all projects end up over budget and about three quarters show a lack of alignment between the business and the project. This happens despite major efforts to enforce project standards, to use iterative methods, and to assure strict quality thresholds. Could it be that there are other factors in play?

Severe budget pressures to get things done for less money do not help when it means that projects are under-resourced. Similarly, at the pre-project stage, business requirements need to be properly investigated and this requires experts that cost money. What about the human factor? Why do people today commonly use terms like: toxic project, project turnaround and project recovery? Does fear of failure become a self-fulfilling prophesy?

Fact. People work better when they are content and appreciated. I learnt this on my first big project years ago. Roger, the project manager, came round to talk with other members of the project team almost every day. He listened to what they had to say and gave advice or support only when it was needed. The project was large and complex with multiple stakeholders from different cultures. But everybody liked and admired Roger; they valued his judgement and were happy to work for him. In fact he united them in a common objective telling them how important their work was and what an excellent job they were doing. After two years, this hundred million pound project went live on time and to budget. I don't often hear about projects like that today. Less than forty per cent of projects are on time, to budget and meet quality objectives today. Could Roger's success have something to do with his approach? What is your secret to project success? 


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Andrew Fear

Andrew Fear

Advisor / Consultant


Member since

31 Oct 2006


Augsburg, Germany

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