Five factors to help you deliver consistently great projects

The success rates for projects globally have remained static for years and not in a good way. The Project Management Institute’s Pulse of the Profession 2019 report acknowledges this fact by stating upfront that “project performance isn’t getting any better.”

It’s estimated that only a third of projects globally are actually delivered on time and to budget, with KPMG estimating that less than two per cent actually achieve their ROI. If less than a third of people turned up for work every day and when they did they were only two per cent productive, would that be acceptable?

What’s the answer?

Most organisations think that the answer is “silver bullet” method and a plethora of buzzwords and approaches used in different industries and contexts. However, these will only ever provide a short-term lift, because the root cause of failure continues to be the behaviours of those who are accountable and responsible for projects.

Learning from those who do delivery consistently well, here are five factors of consistently great projects.

  1. Sponsors who understand projects
    These are the senior managers who don’t assume that they have all of the answers. They get that great delivery relies on clear priorities, peer-to-peer challenge, quick decisions, removal of pointless bureaucracy, a focus on the outcomes and management of the person responsible for delivery. They make the time for their project and role model what they expect of others.
  2. People who make the choice to lead, not manage
    Those who lead the work understand that it’s behaviours that will make their leadership style memorable, both positively and negatively. They understand that to succeed they need to be kind, caring, thoughtful, proactive and courageous. They know that consistently displaying positive behaviours will encourage a supportive and productive delivery culture where trust is assumed not earned.
  3. Vision
    At the heart of not only the project but also the outcomes expected, is a vision of how the culture of the organisation will evolve following the implementation of the project. It’s an aspirational statement that excites, engages and is used to demonstrate the commitment of the organisation to build something that will remain relevant and fit-for-purpose within their business landscape for years to come.
  4. Teams that mix IQ with EQ
    People who have the technical know-how to do what they need to do also understand the human behavioural commitment they need to make to their teammates. A commitment focused on building relationships, sharing stories, creating shared experiences, helping others who may be struggling, keeping an eye on each other’s mental health and smashing their job out of the park each day.
  5. Realistic measures of success
    Time and cost, two things that consistently change throughout all projects (agile and waterfall) aren’t used as sticks to beat people with. The focus is on stakeholder experience and cultural evolution. Measuring the happiness of people and the continual link to strategic intent are seen as the motivators for building a future organisation committed to success. Where scope, time or cost are immovable, both the accountable senior manager and the responsible day-to-day manager have the courage and discipline to stick to what’s been agreed without caving to whims that add nothing to the future state.

Organisations that want to improve the way they deliver projects have a decision to make. Do they want to continue to buy off the shelf “quick-fix” solutions that may provide some short-term improvement or invest time, effort, and money into developing a culture that consistently knows how to get the job done?

Colin D Ellis, project management & culture change expert and author of “The Project Book: The Complete Guide To Consistently Delivering Great Projects”

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