Often projects are grounded in the prevailing world view of directors and managers fighting the “last war” with cavalry, when we now live in a world where 50% of everything that happens is an unquantifiable “Black Swan ” event that may never happen again either in the same way or at all.
If the project is part of delivering a strategy that involves going westwards to look at sunrise then the strategy is wrong and the project will fail.
Thus strategies need to be sense checked, future-proofed and risk optimized first, and then the projects formulated to help bring the strategy into being.
Similarly, we know from McKinseys that 50% of competitors to any business did not even exist before two years ago, which means that many projects which fail to take this into account are doomed from inception because of the positioning of those competitors.
Many directors believe in the “lag” principle, which says that a methodology adopted in Wisconsin can be applied in all 52 states and with translation globally. A project to select and roll out software to underpin the methodology will perhaps work in Wisconsin and similar states but not in others and certainly not in others overseas where things are done differently. Failed projects impale the careers of millions of executives and senior managers around the world.
Too many directors have only lived and worked in one place, so lack cultural understanding, language skills and any idea of how really things work. By comparison, Dr Alf I know has worked globally, speaks several languages and has a passion for understanding delivering effective change in different cultures. I for my part have many years of successful executive and consulting experience in the US, Europe and more recently China – this is across a large number of sectors.
Recruiters and contractors are often appointed on the basis of being PLU’s (People like us), so un-contextualized projects are again doomed at inception.
Then there are the projects put forward using IT, which are designed to force processes to change often against people’s wills. These fail because the processes need to be understood first, then re-engineered within the limits of what is possible and then automated. People need to understand why this is being done and that requires communication not bland assurances otherwise projects of this nature also fail. Often people create projects on the basis of current locations and demographics without considering the need for adaptability, expansion, travel to work/logistics and the cost implications for existing and new staff of the type that the business needs.
Like Dr Alf, I feel that projects managers need to urgently reinvent themselves or become dinosaurs designed out by progress and technology. Directors need to get some shock treatment before they impale their careers on the next project.