Many folks think large projects usually fail for technical reasons — software that doesn't work as advertised, bugs, and so on. In reality, that's not the case.
In my experience, the most serious project issues come down to misplaced expectations among participants. Fundamentally, problems in human communication lie at the root of most failures.
These expectation and communication mismatches are difficult to detect systematically, because they aren't quantitative or technical in nature. Failures persist despite fancy project management methodologies, precisely because traditional approaches do not isolate and address hidden problems.
These seven points of project success touch on conflicting agendas, multiple perspectives, and a broad range of business-oriented conditions that drive projects to succeed or fail:
- Business case
- Stakeholder and user engagement
- Executive sponsorship
- Third-party relationships
- Project management
- Change management
- Resource availability
The Project Failures analysis
It's tempting to dismiss these points as obvious or to believe your projects have few problems in these areas. However, successful project managers dig deeper than that. For example, how do you really know that sufficient executive sponsorship is present? If you only asked one or two stakeholders, then your opinion may well be incorrect.
To gauge sponsorship accurately, you must gather perceptions across the project. After all, someone reporting directly to the CIO may have quite a different view than one working 1000 miles away who has never even met the sponsor.
Please do not ignore these seven fundamentals, thinking they are too "simple" or do not apply to your work. They really are that important.
In future blog posts, we'll explore practical steps you can take to uncover the hidden causes of failure that may be present on your projects.