Recent research published in the Harvard Business Review Magazine asserts that ‘black swans’ – low probability high impact events – are sinking many projects, particularly in the IT sector. The research considered 1,471 large-scale IT projects and suggests that they are three times more likely to spin out of control than construction and other major projects. The lessons drawn from the research include the need for stress testing, breakdown of projects into smaller more manageable elements, contingency planning and use of best class forecasting techniques.
Part 1 of this post considered definitions of project ‘failure’ and looked at where two case study projects failed. In Part 2, the causes of failure on our two case studies are outlined and compared with published common causes of project failures. The article concludes by considering how and where you can learn from others’ mistakes.
Our last Project Management Insight article considered how we can learn from mistakes on our projects. ‘Project Failures’ are more common than most of us would like to acknowledge, although some care is necessary in defining ‘failure’. This post is the first of two which consider common avoidable failures in project delivery and how we can learn from the mistakes of others! As John Keats (1795 – 1821) said:
Don’t be discouraged by a failure. It can be a positive experience. Failure is, in a sense, the highway to success, inasmuch as every discovery of what is false leads us to seek earnestly after what is true, and every fresh experience points out some form of error which we shall afterwards carefully avoid.
Even the best Project Managers are not immune from making mistakes. However, the biggest mistake we can make is to fail to learn from our mistakes and apply the lessons learned.
“The only man who never makes mistakes is the man who never does anything” – Theodore Roosevelt
(1858 – 1919)
During the course of our projects and at the end we should review our successes and failures, take the lessons on board and apply them in future.
Are you a project manager who inwardly groans at the thought of preparing the report for your project at the end of the month? I often hear managers saying ‘they’re too busy to write a report’ usually because they’re wrestling with avoidable problems. Many of the reports which are written fail in their objectives and might as well not have been written. However producing a well written monthly report provides the manager with quality time to take stock and not only record achievement, but also to plan the way forward. So don’t despair – invest time in your monthly reporting and you’ll find your project will run more smoothly and with less personal stress.
This post describes common faults I often see in reports, gives some tips for writing a good report and points readers to some other report writing resources.