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Topics: Business Analysis, Leadership, Organizational Project Management
A new approach to failing projects - a study.
Hi all,

I am starting to form a set of data that looks at failure in projects and not only why they fail (generally very well documented) but more importantly, how do we reduce impact and fail fast. What actions, methodologies approaches can we take, what works in what organisation and it isn’t just one size fits all.
I am aiming to develop a set of guidelines from my experience and others of how to best approach failure in an ever changing landscape of global economy, supply, political pressures.
Your support and thoughts in advance would be appreciated
Ian
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Ian -

I'd suggest looking at the work of Bent Flybvjerg on mega project failures and learnings, and of course, investigate the field of anti-fragility and adaptive delivery as options for failing small & fast.

Kiron
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1 reply by Ian Brindle
Jul 23, 2022 10:02 AM
Ian Brindle
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Many thanks Kiron I will add that to the pot. I’m currently working my way around my network at the moment across public and private sector to both survey and interview the group.
Very much appreciate your guidance
Ian
Jul 23, 2022 9:55 AM
Replying to Kiron Bondale
...
Ian -

I'd suggest looking at the work of Bent Flybvjerg on mega project failures and learnings, and of course, investigate the field of anti-fragility and adaptive delivery as options for failing small & fast.

Kiron
Many thanks Kiron I will add that to the pot. I’m currently working my way around my network at the moment across public and private sector to both survey and interview the group.
Very much appreciate your guidance
Ian
You are correct that why projects fail is well documented. I've read but can't confirm that 90% is related to bad requirements, so there are clearly some strong opinions on the subject.

One of the ways I think technology will help us uncover problems early is the ability to model complex physical systems in a virtual environment. 25 years ago, I would run structural simulations late at night and routinely crash the mainframe. 10 years later I could do far bigger simulations on a laptop running Windows.

Model Based Systems Engineering (MBSE) is a field that is somewhat in its infancy, but as we can model more and more complex things in a virtual environment, then we can simulate how things will fail well before the things exist as physical objects.
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1 reply by Ian Brindle
Jul 23, 2022 5:01 PM
Ian Brindle
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Appreciate your response Keith, just spent a couple of years with an organisation taking a new look at MBSE, requirements management, change management. I’m a big fan of systems level approach but it’s implementation tends to have pesky human beings in the way and, sometimes spending time on subjective interpretations of a requirement.
I will make sure I consider MBSE within this piece of work.
Many thanks
Ian
Jul 23, 2022 12:36 PM
Replying to Keith Novak
...
You are correct that why projects fail is well documented. I've read but can't confirm that 90% is related to bad requirements, so there are clearly some strong opinions on the subject.

One of the ways I think technology will help us uncover problems early is the ability to model complex physical systems in a virtual environment. 25 years ago, I would run structural simulations late at night and routinely crash the mainframe. 10 years later I could do far bigger simulations on a laptop running Windows.

Model Based Systems Engineering (MBSE) is a field that is somewhat in its infancy, but as we can model more and more complex things in a virtual environment, then we can simulate how things will fail well before the things exist as physical objects.
Appreciate your response Keith, just spent a couple of years with an organisation taking a new look at MBSE, requirements management, change management. I’m a big fan of systems level approach but it’s implementation tends to have pesky human beings in the way and, sometimes spending time on subjective interpretations of a requirement.
I will make sure I consider MBSE within this piece of work.
Many thanks
Ian
Ian,

want to add two perspectives to the discussion.

1. while systems level approaches for PM have been around for 50+ years, less research and practical focus was on the human side of PM success. Yes, recently we talk about leadership, servant leadership, emotional intelligence and it is only 10 years since the PMBoK Guide introduced stakeholder management.
In my experience, people make the difference, regardless of methods, practices, frameworks used.
Rationality and system thinking have their limits.

2. projects deal with predicting the future, mostly by setting goals, making plans, estimating etc. And we know that predicting the future is the hardest thing to do.
Furthermore there are different mental models of time, time is not real but imagination (as Einstein noted). PM is based on a linear model with past - present - future. Some African cultures have no concept of a future and their mental model of time is event driven. Other models like Karma trust that harmony exists. And most time models explaining nature are cyclic (day/night, seasons, ..) which BTW adds to iterative sprints having a positive reception by humans.

In a nutshell, maybe projects and how we look at them cannot be more determined and hence successful as they are.

Thomas
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1 reply by Ian Brindle
Jul 24, 2022 2:30 PM
Ian Brindle
...
Agreed on point one Thomas. Interesting take on point two as I think you’re on to something there. Feel that’s why agile can’t be so effective but so many are reluctant to utilise it in the right way and want to, almost, sleepwalk into problems.
Thank you and I appreciate you taking the time to respond,
Ian
Jul 24, 2022 4:18 AM
Replying to Thomas Walenta
...
Ian,

want to add two perspectives to the discussion.

1. while systems level approaches for PM have been around for 50+ years, less research and practical focus was on the human side of PM success. Yes, recently we talk about leadership, servant leadership, emotional intelligence and it is only 10 years since the PMBoK Guide introduced stakeholder management.
In my experience, people make the difference, regardless of methods, practices, frameworks used.
Rationality and system thinking have their limits.

2. projects deal with predicting the future, mostly by setting goals, making plans, estimating etc. And we know that predicting the future is the hardest thing to do.
Furthermore there are different mental models of time, time is not real but imagination (as Einstein noted). PM is based on a linear model with past - present - future. Some African cultures have no concept of a future and their mental model of time is event driven. Other models like Karma trust that harmony exists. And most time models explaining nature are cyclic (day/night, seasons, ..) which BTW adds to iterative sprints having a positive reception by humans.

In a nutshell, maybe projects and how we look at them cannot be more determined and hence successful as they are.

Thomas
Agreed on point one Thomas. Interesting take on point two as I think you’re on to something there. Feel that’s why agile can’t be so effective but so many are reluctant to utilise it in the right way and want to, almost, sleepwalk into problems.
Thank you and I appreciate you taking the time to respond,
Ian
I agree with everyone’s thoughts about systems level approach, agile and adaptive delivery, and the most important element of the ecosystem - the human component. Thomas raised a very important component that we need to consider always beyond technical and technological requirements. We can do the analytical and predictive components but the human elements - connectedness, EQ, collab need to be harmoniously in place to help move the project towards success.
...
1 reply by Ian Brindle
Jul 25, 2022 11:23 AM
Ian Brindle
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Thanks Arlene, the human element is absolutely fundamental to success. I’ve seen so many occurrences of square peg round hole all for the right reasons but somewhat doomed from the offset.
Thank you for your response, appreciated
Ian
Jul 25, 2022 11:19 AM
Replying to arlene trimble
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I agree with everyone’s thoughts about systems level approach, agile and adaptive delivery, and the most important element of the ecosystem - the human component. Thomas raised a very important component that we need to consider always beyond technical and technological requirements. We can do the analytical and predictive components but the human elements - connectedness, EQ, collab need to be harmoniously in place to help move the project towards success.
Thanks Arlene, the human element is absolutely fundamental to success. I’ve seen so many occurrences of square peg round hole all for the right reasons but somewhat doomed from the offset.
Thank you for your response, appreciated
Ian
I agree with Thomas. Failure management on projects not only depends on Technical simulations of the product since there are multiple other factors that can cause project objectives deviation, such as, as Thomas mentioned, the human factor, and to this, we can add a variety of other factors, including Ambiental considerations, political environment, global change tendencies, etc, that can cause the project don't comply expectations as we expected to.
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1 reply by Ian Brindle
Jul 25, 2022 2:42 PM
Ian Brindle
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I agree Veronica, there isn’t one silver bullet change that can be made to create the Unicorn Project. My aim is to distil, not over complicate a model of behaviour for success. The risk and uncertainty factors of projects can be multi layered complex in their own right.
I’m currently building a survey for this piece of work and will socialise it within this chat for interest.
Thank you and I appreciate your input,
Ian
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