Facing Reality: A Few Fundamental Truths

Mark Mullaly is president of Interthink Consulting Incorporated, an organizational development and change firm specializing in the creation of effective organizational project management solutions. Since 1990, it has worked with companies throughout North America to develop, enhance and implement effective project management tools, processes, structures and capabilities. Mark was most recently co-lead investigator of the Value of Project Management research project sponsored by PMI. You can read more of his writing at markmullaly.com.

It’s time that we face up to a fundamental reality: organizations grapple with making project management work successfully on a consistent basis. Yes, there are exceptions--and some notable ones--but on the whole they simply prove the rule.

Some clarification of my indictment is probably somewhat useful here. I’m not talking about organizations struggling to manage a single project or a program or an initiative. I’m not talking about the lack of good project managers. Most organizations can point to at least one or two projects that went (mostly) right. Many organizations can fairly lay claim to the fact that they have some good, capable people that know their way around a status report or a Gantt chart. Few organizations, however, can make the claim that they consistently, routinely and repetitively churn out successful projects on a predictable basis. Even fewer can claim that this consistency is a result of the practices of the organization, rather than simply having a larger-than-normal stable of good, capable project managers.

And to be very clear, the overall track record isn’t particularly stellar as far as organizations implementing project-related practices and capabilities. The number of enterprise project management software implementations that fail--or are sub-optimized--is stunning in its scope. Many research projects reflect on …

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"When I examine myself and my methods of thought, I come to the conclusion that the gift of fantasy has meant more to me than my talent for absorbing positive knowledge."

- Albert Einstein

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