Project Governance and Definition
Are project success rates getting better or worse? What is the cost? What are the controlling factors? How does someone calculate these numbers? The answers are elusive. Lately, Roger Sessions has taken exception to one source—The Standish Group. He has many valid points. However, I doubt there are any statistics giving us a complete picture.
This twitter banter prompted me to dust off some old reports, dig through my library and search my online files to pull some meaningful data together. I was wondering about the headline sentence of this year's Standish Chaos Report, which contains "[2008's] results show a decrease in project success rates, with 32% of all projects succeeding." A pretty alarming statement.
A couple Friday's ago, I was in a meeting and I reiterated my mantra, "Process stifles creativity." A friend, well, I think she still is, nearly jumped out of her chair. "I need to correct you," she barked, "Only poorly implemented process stifle creativity." The suddenness and passion in her response caused the gentleman sitting between us to slide his chair back quickly in order to avoid being tangled in any physical altercation. The room was full of jeers for us to settle the dispute in the parking lot. Realizing I had just stepped in a hornet's nest, I made a joke of it. However, her attack does not dissuade me.
A project's destiny is set very early, often at the inception phase long before the project even starts. The definition and setup of project governance to ensure your projects are properly defined and monitored throughout the project lifecycle is critical. WIthout it the incidence of project fialure skyrockets.
Having the appropriate level of governance and oversight based on the size and complexity of the projects you run is always a challenge. Unfortunately previous project performance, especially troubled projects, has a huge influence on level and degree of governance. The more failures the more governance; the more governance the more bureaucracy and the lower the agility. eCameron has extensive experience with projects complexit, company size, project scope, and company culture. We can help you balance the governance with your company's culture and its people.
Let me be perfectly clear, I hate PMOs. It matters not if you call them project management offices, program management offices, or portfolio management offices, they only spell one thing—poor leadership. Now those of you that know me, have heard this enough times that your eyes are rolling back as you mumble, "Here he goes again. Who set the bait in front of him this time?" However, I have confused people with a couple of PMO articles that might seem contrary.
A project's destiny is set very early, often before the project even starts. A properly run project launch is the first opportunity when all of the key project stakeholders are gathered and can identify and correct issues. Critical to the kickoff's and project's success is having the right stakeholders reviewing and agreeing to the project approach, risks, and mitigations. Without this short alignment workshop the incident of project failure is much higher.
Project Launch Benefits Include:
- Set up the project for the best chance of success.
- Define the proper project approach through prototyping solutions.
- Identify and vet major project risks.
- Assess mitigation strategies.
- Determine contingency requirements.
- Attain consensus on roles and responsibilities.
As they say in the army, never volunteer. Nowhere could that be truer than when it comes to project sponsorship. Given a choice between a root canal and project sponsorship, most managers and executives start looking up dentists on the internet. It is a sad fact—one that project managers must deal with on a daily basis. It is often the project manager’s first solid opportunity to lead up.
Recently I received the book Strategies for Project Sponsorship by Vicki James, Ron Rosenhead, and Peter Taylor, all good friends of mine and trustworthy twitter contributors. It took a while for the book to trickle “up” to the top of my stack; however, when it did I was more than impressed.
Most projects do not fail for the problems on the project; they fail for the problems in the organizations associated with them. Even issues within the project are usually personnel related requiring the project manager to do more counseling than managing. So where does the project manager get these skills? Unfortunately, they come from experience; few come from formal training. Instead, project managers get training on process, which, as can be seen in many of my articles, is misguided. Project managers need to spend more time developing the organizations, making them stronger. Without doing extensive organization development, projects will continue to fail.
Prior to signing any contract or statement of work (SOW) it should be reviewed by your legal team. While legal experts understand legalities that will helpful in court, they are not delivery experts who can determine whether a SOW will provide you with the product that you anticipate, need, and desire. This review will analyze the scope, methodology, deliverables, and proposed cost to identify for areas that point to weaknesses in the ability to deliver or misalignment in intentions that could result in project failure.
SOW Review Benefits:
- Demystify the SOW.
- Get more value from your subcontractor.
- Minimize risk and vulnerability.
- Save money by avoiding risk.
- Eliminate ambiguity.
- Understand and resolve the gaps between the contract and SOW.
- Identify what is missing that should be added.
- Proactive, Preventative, Productive.
Recently I have seen an abundance of references to decision making in everything from presentations to job titles. Yes, I said job title. Director of Quality Decisions. The second thing that struck me (the first being that it was actually a title) was that it was too low in the company. Are other leadership roles like C-Levels, Presidents, and VPs exempt? Unfortunately, I know little about that job and cannot find the person that got the position. I would love to interview him or her.
Tired of doing the same thing and expecting the different results? The goal of a properly run retrospective is to do more of the good things and fewer of the bad. Even well run projects have lessons that we can learn. Preforming a retrospective on a project allows you to capture the highs and lows of a project and integrate that information into a library for others to use.
The lessons could be about handling risk, a new process for you company, allocation of resources, or a multitude of other data. Without discussing and capturing that item, you are left to reinvent this wheel or stumble in the same hole in the future. Objectivity, experience, and an unbiased perspective are key for conducting a value-laden retrospective that solves problems instead of looking for blame, and that complements team work over the individual hero. It takes an experienced outsider who is removed from the history and politics to see the issues and make the recommendations that will maximize the lessons learned.