Weathering the Storm. Preventing Project Shipwreck
“There are no secrets to success.”
“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”
“Success is the result of perfection, hard work, learning from failure, loyalty, and persistence.”
“Failure will never overtake me if my determination to succeed is strong enough.”
There are literally thousands of quotes referencing successful failure. And most have the same positive spin. But really, isn’t the goal in business to never, ever fail? Isn’t the goal in business to wildly succeed? Of course, let’s not confuse failure with risk. We like risk. We just don’t like failure. And we must believe that you, your executive leadership team and your clients, don’t care for it either, especially when you’re ready to undertake a significant project.
Unfortunately, project failure is a reality. For every $1 billion USD invested in projects annually, $122 million USD is wasted due to poor project performance, per the 2016 report from the Project Management Institute (PMI).
How can you and your teams reduce the risk of project failures? The first step is to recognize that internal and external factors can pose a threat to project outcomes. Then be certain to identify internal weaknesses and address them in ways that are sustainable. Here are five specific ways to increase your odds of project success and avoid failure.
Establish a Shared Forum
This is a great first step in setting the tone for the lifecycle of the project. It’s important that it be a blessed, official forum that can be accessed by everyone on the team, including stakeholders. This forum helps to ensure privacy and security as well.
We believe that asking for contribution and input should be a genuine exercise in seeking the truth. Teams need to feel secure in the knowledge that their feedback will be welcomed, accepted and incorporated into the final outcome.
The odds of project success are much greater if they have the full backing and support of project sponsors from start to finish. From the PMI report: “When more than 80% of projects have an actively engaged executive sponsor, 65% more projects are successful. Yet, on average, only three in five projects have engaged executive sponsors.”
Amp Up Your Health Checks
Be proactive and conduct regularly scheduled health checks. If you’re going to try something out, you want to know sooner rather than later if you’re on the wrong track so you can adjust before you run out of runway.
Use a Rear-View Mirror
Ah, yes, the post-mortem. Everyone gets together to discuss in a meeting what went wrong and what could be done better. But all too frequently, the issues brought up are almost always completely ignored and the same mistakes made again. So it’s critical to document the lessons learned in a way that gets incorporated into the next phase of the project.