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Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Roots of Project Failure

Paying more attention than usual (even) to how Project Managers think: I'm preparing a presentation called "Right On/Way Off: Good Decisions and Bad Decisions in Managing Projects."

I've been on this subject for years, and I'm still short of definitive results in tracking the thought patterns of these fevered souls we call Project Managers. I can tell you this, though: You can't find a hall large enough to accommodate enough of them to get consensus on much of anything. Oh, other than a strong sense of the perfidy of the various stakeholders collectively known as "they."

One of the most revealing moments in my Advanced Project Management course is when each participant gets four little black Lego blocks to use as ballots in picking among 10 factors that are the major culprits when Projects go bad. I've also used this electoral process with a couple of Project Management Institute chapters and once with a few dozen bankers.

The voters can put all any number of their four Lego ballots in one cup, say, "Process Management," or one each in different cups. Process Management rarely gets many votes, as a matter of fact.

The general revelation of the exercise is . . . to be reported at the February 18 meeting of the Maine Chapter of the Project Management Institute. I am doing a lot of online and in-person exploration of the topic, so I'm not sure what the full truth will be by then. Just to reduce risk with this little project, though, I'm not going to say much about it here. You'll have to be there.

Suffice it to say that the report on the extensive research could produce a rare consensus among the Project Managers: That Jim has spent too much time out in the full moonlight wearing blinders. Maybe rose-colored ones.

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