Wellingtone have just produced an ‘executive summary’ that’s called ‘Avoiding Project Failure and the Importance of the Skilled Project Manager’.
I’ve read the document, and frankly, I’m disappointed.
First: an executive summary is normally a summary of something more substantial. This document stands alone so there is nothing more behind it.
Second: it uses facts and figures that are out of date.
The landmark Chaos Report (1995) by the Standish Group found a staggering 31.1% of projects will be cancelled before completion and 52.7% of completed projects cost over 189% of their original estimates.
The Chaos Report was an iconic study, but it has been repeated since then – and other studies have been done more recently. Furthermore, Wellingtone is a UK organisation and most of the work of the Standish Group is done with US companies. Last time I looked, the 1995 version of the report is the only one you can get for free on the Standish website, which is why it turns up so often (I have been guilty of that too, but I admit when I’m using figures that are over a decade old in presentations and back them up with more recent studies too).
The executive summary identifies the top reasons why projects fail:
- Inadequately trained and/or inexperienced PMs
- Failure to set and manage expectations
- Poor leadership at any and all levels
- Failure to adequately identify, document and track requirements
- Poor plans and planning processes
- Poor effort estimation
- Inadequate or misused methods
- Inadequate communications, progress tracking and reporting
My own extensive research for Project Management in the Real World told me that there is no one set of reasons why projects fail. Each study has a different ‘top three’ depending on who was surveyed. No guesses then why inadequate training features top of the list for a training company. It’s a real pity, because some of Wellingtone’s documents have been very interesting, especially their analysis of recruitment trends.
I’m feeling particularly uncharitable today, and it’s because I’m being bombarded at the moment with recruitment and training companies all sending me their newsletters and touting for business. Eight emails today.
One training company rang me the other day and when I said I was looking at re-certifying in PRINCE2 this year she said “Shall I pencil you in for June?”
Yes, lady, you heard right. I’m still evaluating suppliers and unfortunately the ones who annoy me by being pushy are not top of my list. Like many people, I’ll be making the decision on brand and value for money, not who rings me the most or who sends me the most pointless newsletters.
So, if you are a training or recruitment company looking to add value to your prospective client base, then add value. Sending out sales pitches thinly disguised as executive summaries including data that is over a decade old doesn’t win any points with me.