Get free project management templates

Sales pitch or useful research?

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Second:  it uses facts and figures that are out of date.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:

  1. Inadequately trained and/or inexperienced PMs
  2. Failure to set and manage expectations
  3. Poor leadership at any and all levels
  4. Failure to adequately identify, document and track requirements
  5. Poor plans and planning processes
  6. Poor effort estimation
  7. Inadequate or misused methods
  8. 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.

About Elizabeth Harrin

Elizabeth HarrinElizabeth Harrin FAPM is a professional project manager and award-winning blogger behind A Girl's Guide To Project Management. She's passionate about demystifying project management and making tools and techniques work in the real world. She's also the author of several books including the PMI bestseller, Collaboration Tools for Project Managers.
Elizabeth lives in the UK with her family. She uses her organisation and project management skills at home, and also to help other bloggers at Totally Organised Blogging.


  1. Elizabeth,

    Tremendous post, we are all richer for having the chance to read it.

    Imagine trying to write a study about modern popular music, but you’re writing it with the 1995 Top of the Pops charts as your main source! If you’ve never even heard of Kasabian, how can you be trusted?

    Keep up the good work!

  2. I know the feeling about calls from various companies selling their wares, I’d rather take 5 minutes out to read the latest blog pieces than waste time on sales calls. And pieces like the one you’ve mentioned in this posting feels like I picked up one of those calls by mistake 🙂
    Anyway Elizabeth, keep up the good work – at least I now know which things to bother reading about and which things to avoid.

    On another note – received your book from BCS as a present the other day after we sat on the panel at one of there PROMS G events. Great book (and no readers Elizabeth didn’t pay me to say that!)


The Shop

Check out my ebooks, template packs and other resources to help you get started and keep going on your projects
Shop now