Project Management

Project Woes Plague Government

Michael R. Wood is a Business Process Improvement & IT Strategist Independent Consultant. He is creator of the business process-improvement methodology called HELIX and founder of The Natural Intelligence Group, a strategy, process improvement and technology consulting company. He is also a CPA, has served as an Adjunct Professor in Pepperdine's Management MBA program, an Associate Professor at California Lutheran University, and on the boards of numerous professional organizations. Mr. Wood is a sought after presenter of HELIX workshops and seminars in both the U.S. and Europe.

Believe it or not, when I started out to write an article about project management in government, I was looking for success stories. Unfortunately in my search for roses of success all I could find were the weeds of failure. What became troubling was the fact that the abundance of project failures is so prevalent and perpetual. Especially disturbing about the failures found is their financial magnitude. We are not talking $10,000 here, $100,000 there; nope, how about $50 million here or a billion there?
For example, it seems that Department of Motor Vehicles’ IT projects are especially prone to failure. In 1987, California’s DMV blew through $45 million before cancelling a re-do of its driver license and registration system project six years later in 1993. And that year marked Oregon’s venture into the DMV project abyss. What was to be a five-year, $50 million dollar effort rocketed to a staggering $120 million and was officially declared a disaster in 2001. The DMV failure list goes on and on. What’s interesting about these failures is the extreme durations and incredible budgets. These are IT projects--not dams and bridges--and perhaps that is one of the lessons to be learned…
Keep Projects Manageable in Size and Duration
When projects take on the magnitude of trying to boil the ocean, the potential for failure grows at a …

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"O, it is excellent To have a giant's strength! But it is tyrannous To use it like a giant."

- William Shakespeare