An effective project management system is a sign of a healthy business. Outputs are delivered as promised and clients are happy because there are no delays. But more often than not, the reality is that rarely do most projects attain a complete 100 percent. How rare? According to a Gallup article, “A study by PricewaterhouseCoopers, which reviewed 10,640 projects from 200 companies in 30 countries and across various industries, found that only 2.5% of the companies successfully completed 100% of their projects.”
In addition to the tiny percentage of totally completed projects, the article further added that most projects sampled in the IT industry had an average overrun of 27 percent. Alright, maybe it’s not that bad right? But the Harvard Business Review study further adds that one in six projects had an overrun of 200 percent, with a schedule delay of 70 percent.
And these project failures are not generating cheap consequences. Economies suffer as much as US$150 billion a year, at least in the United States, due to failed IT projects. And sometimes, projects that involve high risks don’t only cause financial losses but the loss of human life or the environment as well. The repercussions are enormous when projects fail and most of the time, the culprit is due to poor project management.
‘Poor project management’ per se, is such a vague and broad phrase. It can mean many things and can cover many aspects. But it can be looked at as the inability to deliver a product or output due to repetitive faults in a system. These repetitive faults could be the lack of knowledge or skills by some employees in certain areas; it could be due to a loophole in an office policy or workflow; it could even be a lack of inspiration, vision or passion.
Many factors contribute to a failure of a project, some are external factors and even beyond the locus of control of a company (like a natural disaster) but some are disasters employees themselves make. For project managers, here are some pitfalls that can contribute to ‘poor project management’:
1. There’s too much micromanagement
Everybody knows you’re the one directing the show, so much so that you’re the only one doing everything. Micromanagement is an amazing skill; don’t get it wrong. And managers who know this well can wield it properly at work to generate impressive results. But too much of this though can actually hamper a project from achieving fruition, and not to mention the flak you might get for it from your team members (unless you are Anna Wintour).
The first thing that will be affected here is trust. Micromanaging basically imposes that people should trust you instead of otherwise. This can be dangerous in collaborative environments. However, this can be effective in catching up with last-minute work processes. If you wish to use this skill in achieving project results, the key here is not to micromanage all the time. Think of this as your emergency card. Don’t play it unless you really need to. The default is, as the project manager, you should trust your colleagues first.
2. There’s no room for innovation
Managing by the book may sound the most appropriate thing to do, but generals stick more to their guns than to the rules. This simply means you should get things done. A lot of times, projects fail horribly because people are more concerned with how they would execute things rather than focusing on the outcome. As stated in the Gallup article, “The problem with a single-minded focus on processes and methodologies is that once people are given procedures to follow, compliance replaces results. Everybody is concerned about how to do the job, not about the outcome if the job is done well.”
Being a stickler to the rules is a wonderful thing, it keeps you out of trouble. But if this costs you the failure of a project, then you’re just putting yourself in more trouble. Make room for some innovation, think outside the box, and see how you can deliver results in the best way possible.
3. There’s nobody following up
Finally, projects fail because of the failure in procurement. The procurement process is essential in any project. This is where you will start gathering your materials in order to create your product or output. And many project managers fail in this step because of one simple thing- the inability to follow up on certain actions that need to be executed. It’s no excuse that project managers should always keep their eye on the ball. If the ball is not being passed on to the next, they should immediately intervene to prevent a bottleneck.
One way to avert the crisis is to look at the whole workflow system and red flag potential choke points. This way you are being a proactive manager rather than preventive, having to put out fires whenever things pop up. An integrated management software would be helpful in monitoring project progress, so does a good old Gantt chart. The important thing is, use a device or software to assist you in following up so that projects don’t end up stagnant.