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FCW : April 15, 2014
We all have troubled projects that are at risk of not achieving their expected business outcomes. CEB research shows that as many as 30 percent of projects in an average portfolio are troubled at some point during their life cycles. Some 20 percent of projects eventually fail, wasting signi cant time and money without delivering expected bene ts to the agency or the public. Even more disconcert- ing is the fact that 20 percent of organizations don t know whether they have troubled projects. (It is fairly safe to assume that they do.) In government agencies, trou- bled projects typically arise for three reasons: • Inadequate metrics. Project management of ces typically base their assessments of project health on schedule- and budget-related metrics, but those metrics are lag- ging indicators that do not allow PMOs to spot problems proactive- ly. Consequently, nearly three- quarters of PMOs report that more than 20 percent of their healthy projects actually conceal problems. • Cultural barriers that discour- age escalation. Many members of project teams hesitate to escalate identi ed problems for fear of career repercussions. The result is an environment with low team morale, disengaged sponsors and stakeholders, recurring renegotia- tion of deadlines or expectations, and brewing tension between proj- ect teams and sponsors. • Strained communications between permanent and con- tractor staff. Agencies often have the added challenge of managing troubled projects with internal and external contractor-based teams. Differing objectives and manage- ment approaches generate signi - cant challenges to effective col- laboration across internal staff and contractor lines. The most progressive organiza- tions realize that early problem identi cation and escalation are among the best ways to bridge the gap between expected and actual project returns. And they use three key risk-mitigation techniques: 1. Look beyond traditional project metrics to help identify trouble early. The best PMOs de ne a set of qualitative leading indicators of project issues and use them to identify troubled projects that would otherwise appear to be healthy. Those leading indica- tors generally fall into common categories --- for instance, stake- holder engagement issues, such as sponsors who are dismissive of project risks or stakeholders who are missing project team meetings and sending delegates instead. 2. Remove cultural barriers that discourage escalation. The best PMOs work hard to create an environment where it is safe for project managers to raise issues without blame or personal attack. They educate sponsors and other executives on how to construc- tively participate in project review sessions, and create an indepen- dent communication channel to allow all project stakeholders to voice their concerns without fear of retribution. 3. Expand the trouble-sensing network. Identifying and xing troubled projects are not solely the responsibility of a project manager or PMO. The best PMOs work to expand their network for sensing trouble to include project team members, sponsors and other key stakeholders. They provide spon- sors with training on how to spot potential problems and create mechanisms that allow all stake- holders to register their concerns. Effective strategies to mitigate troubled projects can signi cantly expedite xes that typically occur late in the project, increasing the likelihood of success and cost avoidance. To see returns on those strategies, PMOs need to actively engage project stakeholders in spot- ting and xing problems and create a culture that encourages, rather than penalizes, early problem iden- ti cation and escalation. ■ Identifying and managing troubled projects CEB research shows that early problem identi cation and escalation are crucial to project success, yet the warning signs are all too often overlooked The best PMOs define a set of qualitative leading indicators of project issues and use them to identify troubled projects. 16 April 15, 2014 FCW.COM Commentary BRIAN GAGNON AND B E N J A M I N K N O P F BRIAN GAGNON is a senior director and BENJAMIN KNOPF is a senior analyst at CEB.
March 30, 2014
April 30, 2014