Project Management Central

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Topics: Change Management, Organizational Project Management
...an ode to project failure.
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Projects fail, it's a fact of life. Despite the best efforts of Professional Bodies to convince the corporate world of the merits of Project Management projects continue to fail. Have success rates improved given the advent of the profession? The jury is still out at best. Despite this organisations are still dismissive, corners are still cut and projects, well they continue to fail. The advent of new thinking, particularly agile project management further confuses, is documentation important, or is it unnecessary? Do teams need management or are they self organising? Is Change Management the role of a Project Manager, or that of a Change Manager, is there a difference really? no really? why? The world of Project Management is confusing, Project Managers are confused. And what role do Professional Bodies play, to what end are they about doing the rights things or just doing things right. Do more established professions suffer these same issues, or are they perhaps growing pains, for that matter is Project Management a profession at all? anyone can do it, right? And yet projects continue to fail.....
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Yes, if they fail with planning imagine without it. Failing makes part of life. Continuous improving till you make it. Along the way we learn form mistakes and hopefully avoid or managing them. That's the motivational side of PM learn it till you make it along the way work hard and learn from your peers.
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I agree that projects fail, some spectacularly, but what is more important concerning any given failed project is that the project team that was involved in the failed project perform an after action / lessons learned session to review what went right, and more importantly, what went wrong, and learn from the mistakes that were made.

As in life, you are doomed to repeat your mistakes until you learn why you repeatedly make these mistakes, and then you will move forward in your life. In the case of a failed project, a project manager who has learned from his or her mistakes will be a better project manager going forward.
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Just accidentally read your question(s). Few (late coming) remarks:
- "..success rates improved...? Guess, PMI can provide some up-to-date analysis (I guess, high numer of of projects still fail or miss their original business case)
- "...agile project management further confuses....": They there is confusion, but there is no reason to be confused - agile practise helps to get work done with special mindset values and way of working. I think most confusion starts with wrong expectations on agile practises
- "...documentation important...not needed anymore...": Clear Yes, still needed, but reduce the waste (agile practise really supports this topic)
"...Change Manager role...?: PM needs to evaluate changes and impacts on his/her project "micro-level", organizational management on "macro-level" is a different role but should be integrated in the PM organization (if applicable)
-"...world of project management is confusing..., PM are confused...": This is individual perception, of course. In general the PMBOK framework should help us to get orientation and focus. People always learn, and I tend to be optimistic on this topic.
-"PM a profession at all..."?: As I do it personally for many years, to me it is a profession but also with ingredients of arts (one may say just "simple experience of life")
-"...anyone can do..?": I would say No. If you ask in a room where people are gathered who where assigned to project work whether they enjoyed working in a project, surprisingly many will most likely say "No. I didn't". I believe working as a PM you need to have a specific empathy in working with people and to like to work with people.
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"...and projects continue to fail": Yes, project still fail and some for good reasons and the earlier they fail, the better.
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We learn from our failures, so we'd better fail fast!

-- to paraphrase Lean Startup.
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Project does not fail. What is not right is the measure people use to evaluate if the project fails or not. When you analyze the measures (project objectives) they are stated realeted to the product not to the project. So they are impossible to achieve. On the other side, project management is a pseudo-profession. Take a look to real profession like medicine and you will understand why. Project management, today, no matter the organization you take, there is not a profession when you take the formal definition of profession.
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(1) Projects do not fail: “A project is a temporary endeavor undertaken to create a unique product, service, or result”. Reading this definition and thinking about Sergio’s comment, the two verbs in the definition makes it clear: Defined, planned, executed and controlled by human beings. So, it is human beings expectations, limited knowledge, skills, communication etc. hat fails and what makes project fail in consequence. It is a little bit philosophical, but in its essence Sergio’s comment is right.
(2) Project Management is a pseudo-profession: For the current company and the one I worked before, project business is a major part of their revenue. From this perspective, project management in these companies is definitely not perceived as pseudo-profession. In contrary, there are major initiatives to keep high quality and offer also defined professional career paths.
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1 reply by Sergio Luis Conte
Aug 14, 2017 10:17 AM
Sergio Luis Conte
...
Thak you Peter. Let me clarify both points:
1-I debated from years (and I thing this will be the big change in the new version of PMBOK if PMI group finally take my point) about this: when you analyze the information about projects signed as "fail" you will find that the measure to determine that are project objectives and when you analyze the project objectives defined for those projects you will see that those objectives are related to the product/service/result to be created not to the project itself. So, the measure or criteria to determine if the project fail are wrong and in fact the projects will ever being considered as fail because those objectives are not achievable.
2-People have to understand the definition or what determines if a practice could be considered a profession or not. I could agree with you that is epistemological but if we will discuss about that then that is the field. Project management is not a profession. Medicine is a profession for example. One of the things that determines that project management is not a profession is the fact that just in case of malpractice you can not make a legal action against the project manager.
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Aug 14, 2017 8:45 AM
Replying to Peter Ambrosy
...
(1) Projects do not fail: “A project is a temporary endeavor undertaken to create a unique product, service, or result”. Reading this definition and thinking about Sergio’s comment, the two verbs in the definition makes it clear: Defined, planned, executed and controlled by human beings. So, it is human beings expectations, limited knowledge, skills, communication etc. hat fails and what makes project fail in consequence. It is a little bit philosophical, but in its essence Sergio’s comment is right.
(2) Project Management is a pseudo-profession: For the current company and the one I worked before, project business is a major part of their revenue. From this perspective, project management in these companies is definitely not perceived as pseudo-profession. In contrary, there are major initiatives to keep high quality and offer also defined professional career paths.
Thak you Peter. Let me clarify both points:
1-I debated from years (and I thing this will be the big change in the new version of PMBOK if PMI group finally take my point) about this: when you analyze the information about projects signed as "fail" you will find that the measure to determine that are project objectives and when you analyze the project objectives defined for those projects you will see that those objectives are related to the product/service/result to be created not to the project itself. So, the measure or criteria to determine if the project fail are wrong and in fact the projects will ever being considered as fail because those objectives are not achievable.
2-People have to understand the definition or what determines if a practice could be considered a profession or not. I could agree with you that is epistemological but if we will discuss about that then that is the field. Project management is not a profession. Medicine is a profession for example. One of the things that determines that project management is not a profession is the fact that just in case of malpractice you can not make a legal action against the project manager.

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