Dr. Harold Kerzner's Project Management Predictions for 2020

By Harold Kerzner, Ph.D. | Senior Executive Director, International Institute for Learning (IIL)

The landscape for project management changes almost every year. Some changes are relatively small or incremental, whereas other changes can be significant. Major changes to project management will occur in 2020 due to much of the new material that the Project Management Institute (PMI) has published and will be testing on in the new version of the Project Management Professional (PMP)® exam beginning in June 2020.

Most of the critical changes that I see happening in 2020 can be clustered into the six pillars of project management. These six pillars could very well change the face of project management for at least a decade rather than just for 2020.

Pillar #1: Project managers will be expected to manage strategic projects rather than just traditional or operational projects.

For several decades, project managers were only responsible for traditional or operational projects that:

  • Had a well-defined statement of work
  • Used the traditional “waterfall” methodology that was often based upon a one-size-fits-all approach
  • Relied upon earned value status reporting that focused mainly upon the time, cost and scope constraints

Strategic projects were assigned to functional managers whom executives trusted more than project managers. Functional managers were permitted to use whatever approaches they believed would work on their projects, and often without any of the processes, tools or techniques used in traditional project management practices.

Today, more and more companies believe that they are managing their business as though it is a series of projects. As executives begin to recognize the benefits of utilizing effective project management practices, and more trust is placed in the hands of the project managers, project managers are being asked to manage strategic projects as well as traditional or operational projects.

But as will be seen in some of the pillars that follow, many new techniques are accompanied by significant changes in the way that work is executed, e.g. new methodologies, new status reporting processes and new tools and techniques. Strategic projects (such as those involving innovation, R&D and entrepreneurship) may require different skills, a greater understanding of risk management (especially business risk management), and the use business metrics in addition to the traditional time, cost and scope metrics.

Pillar #2: Project management is now recognized as a strategic competency rather than just another career path position.

In Pillar #1, it was stated that project managers are now managing strategic as well as operational or traditional projects. Executive management now appears to recognize and appreciate the contributions that the PMs are making to the growth of the business.

Many companies will conduct a study every year or two to identify the four or five strategic career paths that must be cultivated in the company so that the growth of the firm is sustainable. Project management makes the short list of these four or five career path slots. As such, project management is now treated as a “strategic competency” rather just another career path position for the workers.

How do we know this? Partly, by considering the fact that many project managers now present and report project status to senior management. Historically, PMs conducted briefings for the project sponsors, and only occasionally for senior management. Now, with the responsibility to manage strategic projects that may impact the future of the firm, project managers may be conducting briefings for all senior management and even the board of directors.

Pillar #3: There will be a significant change in the skill set that some project managers may need.

When there exists some commonality among the projects in a firm such that a one-size-fits-all approach can be used during project execution, the skill set for the project managers may be known with some degree of certainty. But referring to Pillar #1, where project managers are now responsible for managing strategic projects, new skills may be necessary.

Strategic projects will vary from company to company, and even in the same company there can be a multitude of different types of strategic projects included in innovation, R&D, entrepreneurship and new product development. The skills needed can vary based upon the type of strategic project. As an example, different skills may be needed whether we are discussing innovation projects that are radical rather than incremental. Some of the new skills needed for strategic projects include design thinking, rapid prototype development, crowdstorming, market research, brainstorming and change management. For project managers involved in multinational strategic projects, the list of skills might also include an understanding of local cultures, religions and politics.

Pillar #4: There will be a significant change in how we define the success (and failure) of a project.

For years, the definition of project success was the creation of project deliverables within the constraints of time, cost and scope. While this definition seemed relatively easy to use, it created several headaches:

First, companies can always create deliverables within time, cost and scope, but there is no guarantee that customers would purchase the end results. Second, everyone seemed to agree that there should be a “business” component to project success, but they were unable to identify how to do it because of the lack of project-related business metrics. Third, this definition of project success was restricted to traditional or operational projects. Functional managers that were responsible for strategic projects were utilizing their own definitions of project success, and many of these strategic projects were being executed under the radar screen because of the competition in the company for funding for strategic projects.

Today, companies believe they are managing their business as a stream of projects, including both strategic and traditional projects. As such, there must exist a definition that satisfies all types of projects. The three components of success today are:

  • The project must provide or at least identify business benefits
  • The project’s benefits must be harvested such that they can be converted into sustainable business value that can be expressed quantitatively
  • The project must be aligned to strategic business objectives

With these three components as part of the project’s success criteria, companies must ask themselves when creating a portfolio of strategic projects, “Why expend resources and work on this project if the intent is not to create sustainable business value?” These three components can also be used to create failure criteria as to when to pull the plug and stop working on a project. Since these three components are discussed in current PMI literature, it is expected that these three components will appear in the new version of the PMP® exam, beginning in June 2020.

Pillar #5: There will be a significant growth in the number of metrics, especially business-related metrics, to be used on projects.

The four pillars discussed previously made it clear that the business side of projects will need to be understood much better than in the past. This will require significantly more metrics than just time, cost and scope.

Companies will need to create metrics that can track benefits realization, value created from the benefits and how each project is aligned to strategic business objectives. To do this may require the creation of 20-30 new metrics. This will undoubtedly lead to major changes in the earned value measurement systems (EVMS) currently being used.

The new project business metrics must be able to be combined to answer questions that executives have concerning business and portfolio health. The list below identifies metrics that executives need for business decision-making and strategic planning.

  • Business profitability
  • Portfolio health
  • Portfolio benefits realization
  • Portfolio value achieved
  • Portfolio mix of projects
  • Resource availability
  • Capacity utilization
  • Strategic alignment of projects
  • Overall business performance

Exhibit 1 shows typical categories of metrics and that new versions of project management (i.e. PM 1.0 – PM 5.0) may appear in the literature. The growth in metrics is due to the growth in measurement techniques. Today, we believe that we can measure anything.

Exhibit 1. Growth in Metrics

Pillar #6: There will be a growth in flexible project management frameworks or methodologies that are capable of measuring benefits and business value as the project progresses and after the deliverables have been created.

The traditional “waterfall” approach to project management implementation has successfully been used for years, but this approach has the limitation that value is measurable primarily at the end of the project. Companies want to have value and benefits metrics reported throughout the project so that they can cancel or redirect non-performing projects.

Techniques such as Agile and Scrum appear to do a better job of measuring and reporting value created through the project, than other approaches. In the future, we can expect more flexible project management approaches such as Agile and Scrum to appear.

Conclusions:

It is unrealistic to think that these six pillars will be the only changes that will occur in 2020. There will be other changes, but perhaps not as significant as these six pillars. The implementation of these six pillars requires that companies try to envision the future and plan for it. For companies that believe in “business as usual” or “let’s leave well enough alone,” these changes will not be implemented. Those companies that believe in “doing things the same old way” will most likely struggle to stay in existence.

Contact IIL to find out how we can support your individual, team, or organizational Learning & Development needs in 2020 and beyond. Email learning@iil.com, call +1-212-758-0177 or request a free consultation on our website.

About the Author
Harold Kerzner is Senior Executive Director with International Institute for Learning (IIL). He has an MS and Ph.D. in Aeronautical and Astronautical Engineering from the University of Illinois and an MBA from Utah State University. He is a prior Air Force Officer and spent several years at Morton-Thiokol in project management. He taught engineering at the University of Illinois and business administration at Utah State University, and for 38 years taught project management at Baldwin-Wallace University.

He has published or presented numerous engineering and business papers in addition to more than 80 college textbooks/workbooks on project management, including later editions. His latest book is Innovation Project Management: Methods, Case Studies and Tools for Managing Innovation Projects (Wiley, 2019).

 

Project Management Professional and PMP are registered marks of Project Management Institute, Inc.


From Traditional to Non-Traditional Projects

By Harold Kerzner, Ph.D. | Senior Executive Director for Project Management, IIL

Background

For almost four decades, companies on a worldwide basis struggled with the creation of a singular methodology that could be used to manage all their projects. The singular methodology was a necessity for senior management that was reluctant to surrender their “command and control” posture over the project management community. The methodologies were designed so that senior management could retain some degree of standardization and control from the top down through the hierarchy and that project teams would not be allowed to make decisions that were reserved for the senior levels of management. Executives, marketing and sales personnel were fearful of what power and authority project managers might obtain.

Today’s project managers do not realize the degrees of mistrust that some of us had to endure as project managers years ago. At that time, if the choice were up to executives in the contractors’ organizations, project managers would not exist, and all projects would be managed by functional management, marketing or sales personnel. But the clients and stakeholders preferred to talk directly to the project managers (rather than communications with just sales and marketing personnel) and encouraged the contractors to recognize the need for creating project management positions.

The Growth of Nontraditional Projects

Singular methodologies provided the executives with the command and control they desired but there were some risks. Executives tried to enforce the belief that the singular methodology was the solution to their project management concerns and that one-size-fits-all, which meant that every project in the company would be required to use the same, singular approach. Unfortunately, executive soon began to realize that not all projects can use the one-size-fits-all methodology. Operational or traditional projects may be able to follow a singular methodology, but strategic and other forms of nontraditional projects may have to be managed differently.

The approach that companies then undertook was to have strategic and nontraditional projects managed by functional managers that were then allowed a great deal of freedom in how they chose to manage the projects. Executives trusted functional managers more so than project managers and were not perceived as a threat to senior management.

By the turn of the century, the number of nontraditional projects was growing. More trust was being placed in the hands of the project managers and companies began recognizing that the one-size-fits-all approach needed to be modified or replaced with flexible methodologies or frameworks, such as agile or Scrum, which provided more freedom and authority to the project managers.

The Impact of the Growth in Nontraditional Projects

In some companies, the number of nontraditional projects was perhaps 200% more than traditional projects as seen in the center of Exhibit 1 below. As the need for more flexibility in project management took hold, changes began to appear in the way that some of the traditional processes were being used.

 

Exhibit 1. Changes in Our View of Project Management Processes

 

The Hexagon of Excellence

The hexagon of excellence identifies some of the changes that companies made as they began to use project management on the nontraditional projects:

  • Integrated processes: Project managers were now expected to make business-based decisions as well as the traditional technical or project-based decisions. As such, business processes were now integrated with project management processes in flexible project management approaches.
  • Culture: Project management was now recognized as processes that can and will affect the entire company rather than just specific functional areas. As such, a project management culture that supports company-wide cooperation must be developed and enforced by senior management.
  • Management Support: Management support is essential. Senior management must realize that they must actively function as project sponsors and serve on governance committees. They must also realize project governance is NOT the same as functional governance and must be willing to understand and accept new levels of authority, responsibility and decision making.
  • Training and Education: Providing training to just the project managers no longer works. If a corporate-wide project management culture is to be created, then it is possible that the entire organization may need to undergo some training.
  • Informal Project Management: Part of the training must promote informal project management practices that are predicated upon people working together and without being forced to rely upon the use of superior-subordinate relationships. Titles and levels of authority should not be critical when working on project teams.
  • Behavioral Excellence: Human resource management courses will grow. Rather than emphasize the traditional behavioral theories, the focus will be on communication, cooperation, teamwork, and trust, with trust perhaps being the most important item.

Capturing Best Practices

For decades, we relied entirely upon capturing best practices, but just those related to project management. Today, we believe that, if you are managing a project, you are managing part of a business and are expected to make business decisions as well as project decisions. Therefore, we are now capturing best practices in all parts of the business rather than in just project management. What we discover as part of our findings are now part of an information warehouse rather than just a best practices library. As seen in Exhibit 1, we are now developing a structured process by which all forms of best practices can be discovered.

Project Management Maturity Models

Typical project management maturity models, as shown in Exhibit 1 still apply, but more models are entering the marketplace. In Exhibit 1, Level 3 may be replaced with flexible methodologies rather than a singular approach. Level 4 is expected to grow significantly as companies realize that benchmarking against companies that are world class leaders in project management may give better results than just benchmarking against companies in their own industry. In Level 5, companies are demonstrating a greater willingness to implement changes in the best interest of the company rather than worrying about their own power base and authority.

Networked PMOs

Companies have recognized the need for PMOs for more than three decades. However, there were significant power struggles for which executive would maintain control of the PMO. There was a belief that “information is power” and whichever executive would control the PMO would become more powerful than his/her contemporaries.

As nontraditional projects grew, there was an apparent need for multiple PMOs. The situation becomes more complex as companies began expanding globally and recognized the need for geographically dispersed PMOs. But some executive still felt threatened by the PMO concept and opted for the creation of “master” and “subordinate” PMOs. Today, this concept seems to have diminished as companies have recognized the importance of networking their PMOs as shown in Exhibit 1.

Conclusion

There is significantly more information we could have discussed related to each component in Exhibit 1 resulting from the growth of nontraditional projects. But what appears obvious is that change is happening and appears to be for the betterment of the project management community. Where project management will take us, we do not know. But what is certain is that there is a growth in the use of nontraditional projects and the accompanying project management processes.

Have a question for Dr. Kerzner? Leave your comment below.

 

About the Author
Harold Kerzner (M.S., Ph.D., Engineering, and M.B.A) is IIL’s Senior Executive Director for Project Management. He is a globally recognized expert on project management and strategic planning, and the author of many best-selling textbooks including Project Management: A Systems Approach to Planning, Scheduling, and Controlling and Project Management 2.0. Dr. Kerzner has previously taught project management and business administration at Baldwin-Wallace University, engineering at the University of Illinois and business administration at Utah State University. He obtained his industrial experience at Thiokol Corporation where he held both program management and project engineering responsibilities on a variety of NASA, Air Force, Army, Navy, and internal R&D programs.

PMBOK and PMI are registered marks of the Project Management Institute, Inc.


A Step-By-Step Guide to Improving Your Resource Management

By Analuz Montejano | IIL Instructor and Sr. Consultant

Project Managers and their teams carry out planned projects on a daily basis, such as the development of new applications. To be successful, they must be able to evaluate and allocate resources necessary to complete deliverables on time, with quality, and without exceeding the budget. However, there are a lot of challenges, many of which arise because of limitations in current processes and tools, which impede success.

Project Resource Management is a process designed to use human and tangible assets, materials, and equipment efficiently and effectively. Since 2017, project resource management has focused not only on human resources, but also on the equipment, materials, and supplies. The process consists of identifying, acquiring, and managing the resources at the right time and place because the goal of resource management is to manage all their sources. It is one of the most difficult processes in which to plan, control, maintain, and achieve objectives.

Read on for steps you can take to improve resource management on your projects!

Prioritize work and include all the resources in the WBS:

    • Evaluate the objective of the project in order to complete the decision-making process, rather than contract or buy with a provider. Use the WBS – work packages.
    • Include change control procedures in your methodology; you will need them in the different phases of the project.
    • Resource planning begins by creating a detailed list of every resource, human and non-human, needed to complete the project. Involve team members in the process, since some aspects of the project may require resources you don’t know about. It’s better to plan for every possible item and not use them than to underestimate your needs and end up scrambling and paying a premium at the last minute.

Take adequate time to make reasonable and realistic estimates:

Perfection is nearly impossible to achieve in resource management, but you should still aim for it. Once project priorities have been clarified, take adequate time to estimate schedules and budget. Look to completed projects, including what went wrong, to help develop reasonable estimates and forecasts. Additionally, while you need to listen to management, estimates and forecasting should be realistic, and not simply fit management targets or unreasonable periods. Update estimates periodically to reflect changes such as new decisions, shifts in resources, and the impact of these changes on the project as they happen.

Review which resources are available in your company, capability, and number, or if you need a supplier to hire or buy them:

Pay special attention to the people or technical suppliers that have more demand in the company or the times that you need to accomplish the procurement or bidding process, in order to schedule and reserve them on time. Review their availability and try to be proactive, which is the most important aspect in order to complete the deliverables.

Consider the options of working in the organization with the technical and human resources:

  • Different types of programs and projects will obtain benefits with specific technologies; it is important to know the size, cost, duration, and participants on the project
  • Ensure that the tools and techniques that you selected will be aligned with the company, create efficiencies, and obtain the benefits for the project
  • This will enable your organization to plan, manage, and deliver work – utilizing a range of methodologies such as traditional or milestone-driven, iterative, Agile, and even collaborative work
  • Embrace different ways of working across the organization and resources
  • Always include the Procurement area when you have suppliers on your project

Use a Responsibility Assignment Matrix:

Once you prioritize the needed resources, define the people who are responsible for task or overall project completion with a responsibility assignment matrix (RAM). Use the matrix to clarify roles and responsibilities for the full scope of the project. RAMs are often simple RACI charts (responsible, accountable, consulted, and informed). Charts can be created by naming the individual or role. Learn more in “A Comprehensive Project Management Guide for Everything RACI

Expect the unexpected throughout the project life cycle:

In the life cycle of the project, is common to find different changes or lack of resource planning, quantity, capacity, or lack of quality specification; there is increased risk and conflicts will occur because unexpected events and changes are inevitable.

Plan work and resources with a Work Breakdown Structure:

You need a strong WBS with a work package for planning work, managing assignments, and assigning deliverables; when assigning resources to work, you need to provide all the quality specifications and the deliverables acceptance.

Consider each activity with start/finish dates and durations for defined work and assignments; don’t forget one responsible for each activity.

Utilize processes where possible to reduce administration.

Manage resource allocation:

There are many parts to planning a project and all of them are important. But the project won’t get done if you have not efficiently assigned your resources to specific tasks.

Don’t forget resources can mean many things. The people on your team are resources, but so are the tools they use, equipment, and even the site where you’re going to do the work.

Use high-level buckets at the project or phase level as a starting point if resource management is new to your organization.

Start by collecting all the WBS activities that will be necessary to complete the project. Activities are smaller parts of a larger job. They are the steps you must take to get from the beginning of a project to the finish line.

Use Schedule and Budget Reports:

Each activity has duration and resources, and you must determine how long it will take those tasks to go from start to finish – in other words, the activity or task duration. In addition, you need to know the cost for each resource.

Keeping an eye on all the moving parts of a project ensures that you maintain control of time, budget, activities, risk, and changes. Visually representing data in one place facilitates transparency and communication with team members and holds the line on schedules and approved budgets.

You need to keep things simple and easy in order to complete the schedule and budget report.

Adopt a tool for tracking time and cost for the different types of resources.

Use Resource Leveling:

Also known as resource smoothing, this is part of the resource management juggling act. It means you are aware of and managing resource availability across a single project or multiple projects. You can extend planned timeframes for specific tasks, avoid over- or under-allocating team members, and prevent team burn-out.

Calculate the Utilization Rate:

This number tells you exactly what percentage of a team member’s time resources are being used based on your time allocation. The goal is to work to full capacity, so you don’t waste any time (or money). To calculate the utilization rate, take the number of hours a resource worked relative to the total number of hours they had available to work.

Consider the importance of Risk Management and Change Management:

Resource management carries a high-risk element as it is an issue that PMs face every day. Resources are borrowed from existing teams to work on new projects, high-visibility projects, and new business all the time, and the resource manager is forced to “recast” the teams. There is a lot of negotiation between teams for the same talent, and the resource manager is central to that negotiation; it may require rolling delivery dates for the talent to be able to move from deliverable to deliverable.

A project can bring about change in the workplace. Every phase that is reached must be assessed for positive and negative impacts to the project itself and the overall work environment. Measure and monitor impacts and report them to project sponsors and team members. Resource managers also have a part in organizational change, as companies continue to create innovative processes and systems, staff roles and responsibilities, and incorporate technology for greater efficiency.

Maintain constant communication with the Procurement team and its suppliers:

Share the schedule in advance, as well as risk or contingencies with the suppliers and Procurement team in order to obtain alternatives for project control.

Schedule and budget for non-project time:

Ensure that administrative time, paid time off, meetings, emails, etc. are accounted for when planning for both the long term and short term.

Don’t forget about unexpected project activities (risk and changes); be sure to provide a mechanism to capture this time – otherwise, you will lose visibility for this reduction of capacity and you need to use the contingency reserve.

Keep your team motivated and happy:

Keep your team trained and updated. This will help productivity; don’t ever over-utilize human resources.

Most “resources” are people – and people are ultimately responsible for a successful project. Resource and project managers need to be master negotiators as they navigate between multiple project management teams who (of course) each consider their project to be the highest priority. Motivation and happiness are important for all individuals in the project life cycle.

Complexity, flexibility, soft skills, and planning for the unknown – dealing with the unknown is the norm in resource management, and managers need to be flexible and be ready to deal with complexity.

Avoid or limit multi-tasking:

Multi-tasking sounds efficient, but often results in lower overall productivity.

Try to limit the number of parallel tasks and your resources will perform better.

Have ways you’ve improved your resource management? Tell us about it in the comments!


About the Author
Ana Luz Montejano is an instructor and senior consultant, specialist in project management, program and portfolio, as well as PMO implementation and soft skills abilities. She has extensive experience providing support and advice to corporations for various industries and sectors, which shares through such activities as instructor and consultant in a wide range of multinational companies in Latin America, Ana Luz is Professor and speaker for several universities in Mexico. She was Financial Vice President of PMI® Mexico Chapter in 1999 and 2002, member of PMI® since 1996 – present.

References:

Kerzner, H. Project Management: A Systems Approach to Planning, Scheduling and Controlling, 12th Edition. New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2013.

Project Management Institute, Inc. A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) – Sixth Edition, Newtown Square, PA, 2013.


Can the Words "Innovation" and "Project Management" Be Used In The Same Sentence?

By Harold Kerzner, Ph.D. | Senior Executive Director for Project Management, IIL

INTRODUCTION

Companies need growth for survival.

Companies cannot grow simply through cost reduction and reengineering efforts.

Companies are recognizing that brand loyalty accompanied by a higher level of quality does not always equate to customer retention unless supported by some innovations.

According to management guru Peter Drucker, there are only two sources for growth: marketing and innovation [Drucker, 2008]. Innovation is often viewed as the Holy Grail of business and the primary driver for growth. Innovation forces companies to adapt to an ever-changing environment and to be able to take advantage of opportunities as they arise.

Companies are also aware that their competitors will eventually come to market with new products and services that will make some existing products and services obsolete, causing the competitive environment to change. Continuous innovation is needed, regardless of current economic conditions, to provide a firm with a sustainable competitive advantage and to differentiate themselves from their competitors. The question, of course, is “How do we manage innovation needs?”

INNOVATION AND PROJECT MANAGEMENT

For years, there has been a debate as to whether the words “innovation” and “project management” should be used in the same sentence. Some researchers argue that project management and innovation management should be treated as separate disciplines.

Innovation requires:

  • An acceptance of significant risk, more so than in traditional project management
  • A great deal of uncertainty
  • A focus on strategic goals and possibly no business case exists
  • Unknown constraints and assumptions that continuously change
  • Decision making in an unfamiliar landscape
  • A creative mindset
  • Collaboration across all enterprise organizational boundaries
  • Significant interfacing with customers in every market segment
  • A different leadership style than with traditional project management
  • A set of tools different than what is being taught in traditional project management courses

Some tools typically used when managing innovation include:

  • Design thinking
  • Storytelling
  • Decision-making flow charts
  • Value proposition
  • Business model thinking
  • Wall of ideas with post-it notes
  • Ideation
  • Prototyping, perhaps continuously

Innovation management, in its purest form, is a combination of the management of innovation processes and change management. It refers to products, services, business processes, and accompanying transformational needs, whereby the organization must change the way they conduct their business. The change can be incremental or radical.

Project management practices generally follow the processes and domain areas identified in the Project Management Institute (PMI)® A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide). Strategic innovation follows other processes such as strategizing, entrepreneurship, changing and investing [de Witt & Meyer, 2014].

But now, companies are realizing that innovation strategy is implemented through projects. Simply stated, we are managing our business as though it is a series of projects. Project management has become the delivery system for innovation activities, but the integration is complex and varies with the type of innovation project.

PROJECT MANAGEMENT IS A BUSINESS DELIVERY SYSTEM

Today’s project managers are seen more so as managing part of a business than managing just a project. Project managers are now treated as market problem-solvers and expected to be involved in business decisions as well as project decisions. End-to-end project management is now coming of age. In the past, project managers were actively involved mainly in just project execution with the responsibility of providing a deliverable or an outcome. Today, with end-to-end project management, the project manager is actively involved in all life-cycle phases including idea generation and product commercialization.

For decades, most project managers were trained in traditional project management practices and were ill-equipped to manage innovation projects. Today, attempts are being made to integrate all of this into a single profession, namely innovation project management (IPM).

PROJECT MANAGEMENT LITERATURE

There exists a plethora of literature on project management. Unfortunately, most of the literature focuses on linear project management models with the assumption that “one size fits all.” While this may hold true in some industries and for some projects, the concept of “one size fits all” does not apply to projects involving innovation. Innovation varies from industry to industry, and even companies within the same industry cannot come to an agreement on how innovation management should work.

The situation gets even worse when companies try to use traditional project management for business processes such as business model innovation, where you have the greatest degree of risk and uncertainty, where traditional risk management planning will not work, and where a great deal of flexibility is needed for decision making. Different project management approaches, many requiring a higher level of flexibility, will be dictated by the level of technology, the amount of product versus product changes, and whether the impact is expected to disrupt the markets.

Project managers need flexibility in their ability to select the appropriate tools for their projects and customize the processes to fit the needs of the projects. This holds true even for those projects that do not require innovation. The future will be flexible project management models such as those used in Agile and Scrum projects.

“Managers need to recognize the type of project at the start, resist institutional pressure to adapt traditional ‘rational’ approaches to all projects and apply an appropriate approach – one tailored for the type of project” [Lenfle & Loch, 2010]. Traditional project management does not distinguish between types of projects. Articles are appearing in literature that propose a methodology to classify projects to guide the design of a suitable project management model [Geraldi et al., 2011].

We have learned from Agile and Scrum that flexible project management approaches are necessary for many projects. This same thinking will be required for innovation projects. We will need different tools and different skill sets than most project managers currently use. 

Have a question for Dr. Kerzner? Leave your comment below.


About the Author
Harold Kerzner (M.S., Ph.D., Engineering, and M.B.A) is IIL’s Senior Executive Director for Project Management. He is a globally recognized expert on project management and strategic planning, and the author of many best-selling textbooks including Project Management: A Systems Approach to Planning, Scheduling, and Controlling and Project Management 2.0. Dr. Kerzner has previously taught project management and business administration at Baldwin-Wallace University, engineering at the University of Illinois and business administration at Utah State University. He obtained his industrial experience at Thiokol Corporation where he held both program management and project engineering responsibilities on a variety of NASA, Air Force, Army, Navy and internal R&D programs.

REFERENCES

Drucker, P. F. (2008). The Essential Drucker. Reissue Edition, Harper Business, New York.

Witt, B. de, & Meyer, R. (2014). Strategy: An international perspective, Cengage Learning EMEA, Andover.

Lenfle, M. & Loch, C. (2010). Lost roots: How project management came to emphasize control over flexibility novelty, California Management Review, 53 (1), 32 – 55.

Geraldi, J. G., Maylor, H. & Williams, T. (2011). Now, let’s make it really complex (complicated): A systematic review of the complexities of projects. International

Journal of Operations & Production Management, 31 (9), 966 – 990.

PMBOK and PMI are registered marks of the Project Management Institute, Inc.


Dr. Harold Kerzner Q&A: How Changes in Project Management Are Supporting Agile and Scrum

This past November as part of IIL’s IPM Day online conference, Dr. Harold Kerzner delivered a keynote on “How Changes in Project Management Are Supporting Agile and Scrum. 

The keynote discussed how, over the years, project management has undergone continuous improvement efforts by extracting best practices from other management practices such as Six Sigma. Now, the reverse is happening: other techniques are extracting some of the best practices from project management for their own continuous improvement efforts. This appears to be true for continuous improvements in Agile and Scrum activities. The landscape in project management is continuously changing for the better!

Following Dr. Kerzner’s keynote, we received hundreds of questions for his live Q&A portion (so many that they couldn’t be addressed in the allotted 15 minutes!) and we are excited to share highlights here, organized in the following categories:

  • Agile and Scrum 
  • Project Managers of the Future 
  • Reporting and Metrics 
  • Portfolio Management
  • Public Sector
  • Challenges
  • Cultural Differences 
  • Project Failure and Success 
  • Benefit Harvesting
  • Miscellaneous

Content has been edited and condensed for clarity.

AGILE AND SCRUM

Can the traditional PM role still exist in an Agile world?

Yes, because some projects can be handled better using traditional project management.

How do we plan effective scheduling using framework, v. traditional and agile?

In traditional project management, everything is linear and we try to lay out a complete schedule at the initiation of the project. With flexible frameworks such as Agile and Scrum, we work with smaller units of time that allow us more flexibility in the adjustment of scope to fit a schedule. In Agile, we tend to fix time and cost, and allow scope to change as needed. With traditional project management, scope is fixed and we tend to allow cost and schedule to change as needed.

How can Scrum or Kanban (agile methodologies in general) methods fit the existing PMI® framework (i.e. PMBOK® Guide)?

My personal belief is that they do not fit, at least well, if you believe that all processes and activities identified in the PMBOK® Guide must appear in each methodology. The future will be flexible approaches that are customized to each user or client. PMs may discover that only 20% of the PMBOK® Guide is needed, as an example.

Is there a way to transition from waterfall to Agile or is it “all in”? Do we have to go to an agile framework and shed all waterfall oriented controls?

My experience has been that you will have a great deal of difficulty going straight to Agile without first adopting some form of project management. Then, it is up to the company, based upon their types of projects, to decide how many of the tools and practices of traditional project management should be carried over. There are some practices that are common to both.

Agile always offers stakeholders the upper hand in modifying the scope after each sprint. As a project manager, how can we limit the change so that we don’t want the team to modify the code after every demo?

I understand your concern, but what are the alternatives especially if you might want repeat business from this client? My personal feeling is that I can live with frequent scope modification as opposed to continuously explaining cost overruns and schedule slippages.

What is the best approach to managing Domain name projects? Would it be better to follow the waterfall traditional project management approach or the Agile/Scrum method?

This is a tough question to answer because it depends on the type of project, size, nature of the project, how many people, whether it will involve change management, etc…

Does the Agile & Scrum framework reduce/omit the requirement of a traditional PM in the IT Industry?

I have to be non-committal, but I believe that each company must make their own decision on this. Regardless of the industry, there are always going be projects that work well using traditional project management practices.

Thank you for explaining the difference between Benefits and Values. This is expected by the executives. What are your recommendations for being certified in Agile and Scrum and is it value added for project managers or the leadership managing project managers as well? If so, which designation do you recommend? Thanks.

Being an educator for five decades, I am a believer in life-long learning. Having said that, I recommend obtaining the additional certifications as long as they will benefit your career goals.

PROJECT MANAGERS OF THE FUTURE

Should a company have a methodology or is it better to allow project managers to manage as they want?

Great question! I believe in the future that methodologies will be eliminated and replaced with tools such as forms, guidelines, templates and checklists. I have one client that has 50++ tools. At the beginning of a project, the PM and some team members select the tools needed and then create a customized methodology or flexible methodology or framework that best fits the client’s needs.

I just got my PMP®. Given the future you are envisioning what do you recommend I begin with?

What I normally tell my students is to work for a small company where, as a project manager, you manage everything and really get to understand project management. Working in a large company, you might manage only a small part of a project and never see the big picture of project management. Start small and then climb the ladder.

What can older project managers do to extend their careers? Are there other fields (e.g. training) that can be pursued?

If you are set in your ways and refuse to be removed from your comfort zone, you have a problem. If you are willing to change, then education is the start.

What are the top 3 skills that define the project manager of the future? How should new professionals seek to gain these skills. Thanks!

For more than 40 years of teaching project management, I have emphasized that the single most important skill is the ability of the PM to manage pressure and stress, not only what is placed upon them, but also what is placed upon the team. As for 2nd and 3rd place, I would pick team building skills and decision-making skills.

How will AI/machine learning affect the role of a project manager and skill sets needed?

I wrote a blog last year on AI and Project Management.

How do you see Project Management and Organizational Change Management working together in the future to achieve benefits and value in projects?

I see project managers staying on board the project and becoming the change agent. They will then be responsible for implementing the changes needed to extract the benefits.

REPORTING AND METRICS

Tools such as EVM (Earned Value Management) provide a metric for schedule and budget. What type of metrics are you seeing as proven practices for measuring benefits and value?

There is no single metric for either benefits or value. Value metrics are made up of attributes or components. For example, I saw an IT company use a value metric that had 5 components: time, cost, functionality, safety protocols, and quality of design. Each component had a weighting factor assigned to it and the totals were rolled up and reported in one dashboard metric.

Executives are interested in KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) which can be loaded. What is your advice in linking dashboards, metrics and KPIs?

I agree that a linkage is necessary. However, I also believe that you should give executives dashboards that provide them with the information they need rather than the information they want. If you have a metric library that has 50 metrics, I would not create dashboards to display all 50 metrics. I would instead ask the executives, “What decisions do you expect to make, and what metrics do you need to help you make those decisions?” Providing executives with too much information is an invitation for executive micromanagement.

Dr. Kerzner said that teams are now allowed to use multiple tools. How then do you balance this with the need to maintain standards so you can successfully create consolidated dashboards?

There will be standards for each tool used. The standards for dashboards involve space, colors, images, aesthetics, etc… but not specifically the information displayed, specifically the metrics. This will be customized for each client.

My understanding is that a dashboard is operational in nature to track the progress of project throughout its lifecycle while a project scorecard will address the need to link up the project objectives, benefits and values to the strategic objectives of the organization?

You are correct. This is how I teach it as well.

PORTFOLIO MANAGEMENT

Lots of times decisions on portfolio made on projects, e.g. with NPV which is purely financial measures and when one looks at more attributes (value creation) upfront, it is likely possible that the optimized portfolio may spit out potentially different set of projects to execute on. This is optimization exercise and companies struggle. Your guidance to us on how to overcome this situation?

Great question. There are financial values and nonfinancial values that need to be considered. Unfortunately, as I see it, perhaps the weakest part of project selection is in the criteria we use which appears to still be financial. As part of business case development, we are now stressing that organizations learn how to prepare a benefits realization plan as part of the business case. Once this happens, we should have a much clearer picture of the realistic benefits and value possible. But how long this will take for companies to learn, I do not know.

We are a Marketing Services Provider whose clients include many large retailers and financial institutions. Of course, we are always working with limited resources. What is your take on portfolio management for a consulting company like ours?

Portfolio management begins with identification of your largest or most critical clients and what projects need to be undertaken to maintain their business. Using techniques like Kaplan and Norton’s Balance Scorecard is a great start at doing this.

PUBLIC SECTOR

I work for the Public sector in Cape Verde, a small African County in the west African coast. Considering the projects complexity in the public sector, involving many stakeholders, changing scope and short cycles, what would be your thoughts on a better approach to use Project Management methodologies in this area and how agile practices can help? Thank you Dr. Kerzner.

Methodologies are not necessarily the solution to your problems. With traditional project management, sad to say, we often try to stay as far away as possible from stakeholders and clients during project execution for fear of scope changes they may request and stakeholder meddling. With techniques such as Agile, we welcome client/stakeholder involvement and expect these people to have at least a cursory understanding of project management and Agile practices. In other words, it appears that in Agile and Scrum clients and stakeholders appear to have a much better understanding of their roles and responsibilities on the project. This should make life better for the PMs.

What is your experience or best practice in managing projects in the public sector in relation to Benefits and Value management?

Public sector projects do not have profit motives, and this changes the picture a bit. But there are other challenges in the public sector that impact benefits and value. I recommend you get a book entitled Public Sector Project Management by Wirick. It is a John Wiley publication and a good book.

How to benchmark business in government monopoly?

David Wirick wrote a book entitled Public Sector Project Management. The book is published by John Wiley. It shows the differences between public and private sectors, and you can easily then see the benchmarking issues.

CHALLENGES

What to do when we start a project in a company that does not have basic ideas about projects?

This is an invitation for disaster. My recommendation is education, and this includes senior management.

How to “sell” to upper management the need for training in PM for the executives?

My experience is that people external to the organization, such as consultants, have an easier time convincing them of the need for training. Executives may fear that internal people promoting training are trying in some way to “feather their own bed” so to speak.

What to do when Executive-Level management doesn’t want to attend education rollout strategies?

You need to find at least one executive champion to help you convince other executives of the importance of this. If all of the executives are in agreement that education at their level is not needed, I would update my resume.

What if your PMO refuses to adjust its methodology for business needs and only looks at itself first? How does an individual PM drive that change?

You may need to have a champion at the executive levels to assist you. All you need to find is just one executive to champion your cause. Otherwise, you will have difficulty.

What is the biggest challenge in project management?

The biggest challenge is overcoming the belief that companies have that one-size-fits-all with regard to a PM methodology. In the future, methodologies must be customized for each client. PMs need flexibility.

Do you have any recommendations for managing (and motivating) IT employees (technology or app dev folks) that are resistant to the change that digital transformation requires?

The architects of the corporate culture are the people that reside on the top floor of the building. If workers are afraid or being removed from their comfort zone, then there is a point where senior management must step in and “force” the changes to take place.

If the Sponsor refuses to attend or be a part of the project, should the PM propose for project cancellation rather than making decisions on behalf of the Sponsor, when he/she is not authorized?

I have lived through this scenario in a multitude of companies. What I tell PMs to do, is to make the decision yourself, and then e-mail the sponsor with your decision asking if they agree or disagree with your decision.  This basically forces them to act because there is now a paper trail.

CULTURAL DIFFERENCES

Dr. Kerzner – thanks for the presentation. When you speak to the politics/religion/culture gaps – how did your daughter bridge the gaps between cultures? What other suggestions do you have to overcome these in short order if thrown into a global program?

My daughter learned from her global team members. They provided her with some educational insights. She wasn’t embarrassed to ask her global team members for advice and recommendations.

I’ve worked with multi-cultural teams and hit roadblocks due to how decisions are made. How do you suggest consensus be achieved across teams?

Believing that consensus can be achieved is probably wishful thinking. At the onset of a project, you must get the team to understand that you do not expect consensus on every challenge and that the team must go along with the vote or any other process you use. People must be prepared early on for disagreements and how decisions will be made.

How to measure whether a Project Manager has enquired sufficient Politics, Religion and Cultural skills?

At present, I do not see any measurements being made. However, in the future I expect to see metrics on projects measuring political exposure, religious exposure and cultural sensitivity. These metrics would be reported on dashboards along with other metrics such as time, cost and scope.

How to prioritize when there is a clash between benefits vs. politics and culture?

This is why we have project sponsors and governance committees to assist in the prioritization of constraints and sometimes alternatives.

PROJECT FAILURE AND SUCCESS

You mentioned that you must have a failure mark for a project…what if failure is not an option?

If failure is not an option, then you must carefully look at the tradeoffs and alternatives. This is a common occurrence on projects that must abide by regulations such as projects for OSHA, EPA, Health and Safety, etc…

RE: Project Health Checks – What is an example of establishing a Failure Criteria, versus establishing a Success Criteria?

You are creating a new product for marketing and the sales force. The exit criteria might be to stop working on the project when the expected sales price reaches a certain value. There are degrees of success based upon the profits expected. The success criteria, which could be a mere image of the exit criteria, could be to develop a product than can sell for less than a certain dollar value.

Often, we set up the success factors for the finished project. By going agile it will be so very important to break down those success factors into smaller ones and going into a stepwise approach. How shall I connect these to stakeholders?

Every project can have a different definition of success. When working with stakeholders, step #1 is having an agreed upon definition of success. Step #2 is then working with the stakeholders to decide upon the metrics and critical success factors you will use to confirm throughout the project that success is achievable. This should be done at the beginning of the project and reported on dashboards periodically.

BENEFIT HARVESTING

What’s the benefit of doing benefit harvesting? What’s the value to the company?

The results of a project are deliverables and outcomes. These, by themselves, have very limited value unless someone can harvest the benefits expected from them.

Dr. Kerzner, can you recommend any resources (authors, journals, etc.) to help educate PMs on the topic of Benefit Harvesting?

There are some books on Change Management that include benefits harvesting. I wrote a white paper for IIL on Benefits Realization and Value Management.

If benefit harvesting is part of project management then don’t you think it is taking a big piece of program management?

Yes, it is a massive piece of project management but many people haven’t realized it as yet.

Who exactly is harvesting benefits from the project in business environment? If the successful project outcome is then transferred to operations, it seems that operations colleagues are those that are harvesting benefits from the successful project.

Sales and marketing may be responsible for harvesting the benefits of new products created through projects. IT may be responsible for harvesting the benefits of new software to be used. Other projects that lead to change management initiatives may be transferred to specific groups in operations.

Hi Harold – great Keynote! Within organizations that commit to having project teams involved in benefit harvesting and value extraction, is there evidence that the number of projects delivered within that organization is reduced? If so, does the value delivered with this expanded focus outweigh what could be achieved by delivering more projects?

When companies learn how to create metrics to measure and report benefits and value, it will become easier to establish a portfolio of projects that maximizes the expected benefits and value to the firm. In this regard, the high value or high benefits projects will be prioritized. We will also then eliminate the “pet” projects of senior management that may or may not produce benefits. I would expect the number or projects to be reduced.

Dr. Kerzner, shouldn’t benefit harvesting be done before the project even begins, to identify the benefits and value the project will provide? Or, is benefit harvesting different from the process of Cost/Benefit Analysis, finding the ROI etc.? Thank you!

Benefits harvesting cannot be done until there are outcomes and deliverables; i.e. completed projects. Also, cost/benefit analysis is based upon a “guess” as to what the benefits will be, and usually the benefits are explained qualitatively, not quantitatively. The true C/B ratio and ROI cannot be determined accurately until after benefits harvesting.

Do we need to wait till we complete the project and realise the deliverable, then work on harvesting the benefits and then sustaining the values? Is it a linear relationship between those three elements of deliverables, benefits and values?

Very good question. I explained it as though it is linear. Actually, it is nonlinear if we work on projects where we can establish metrics for benefits and value and perform the measurements throughout the project. Unfortunately, most companies are not that mature yet and tend to perform benefits realization and value management after the project delivers an outcome. Agile and Scrum projects are an exception.

Great presentation, thank you. What do you see as the differences, if any, between change management and benefits harvesting?

Change management includes all of the activities that may have to be done at project completion to harvest the benefits.

MISCELLANEOUS

Great information. The only one I wasn’t too clear on is the Impact of Mergers & Acquisitions on Project Management. Can you briefly summarize that one?

Whenever there are M&A activities, there will be a landlord and a tenant. Believing that there will be equal partners is not going to happen. The problem is when the landlord dictates to the tenant how project management should work even though the tenant has a superior approach to project management. Developing an agreed-upon approach that both parties will accept will take time.

If it takes years to realize benefits, how can executives decide if the exit criteria are applicable?

The exit criteria identify when to pull the plug on the project. The exit criteria on the project must be monitored throughout the life of the project, not only to see if it is still valid, but to see if it needs to be updated or changed.

I don’t think it depends on culture. I think it’s understanding the way people solve problems. Bridging adaptive and innovative problem-solving styles trumps culture.

I agree with you. There are books being written on a topic called “Design Thinking” which relates to innovation project management. Design thinking requires a total acceptance by the culture of a firm and may cause a new culture to be created that focuses on collaboration and decision-making. I am researching this topic now.

Have a question for Dr. Kerzner? Leave your comment below.


Harold Kerzner (M.S., Ph.D., Engineering, and M.B.A) is IIL’s Senior Executive Director for Project Management. He is a globally recognized expert on project management and strategic planning, and the author of many best-selling textbooks including Project Management: A Systems Approach to Planning, Scheduling, and Controlling and Project Management 2.0. Dr. Kerzner has previously taught project management and business administration at Baldwin-Wallace University, engineering at the University of Illinois and business administration at Utah State University. He obtained his industrial experience at Thiokol Corporation where he held both program management and project engineering responsibilities on a variety of NASA, Air Force, Army, Navy and internal R&D programs.

PMI, PMBOK, and PMP are marks of the Project Management Institute, Inc.


Senior Executives are from Somewhere; PMO Directors are from Somewhere Else!

By J. LeRoy Ward,  PMP, PgMP, PfMP, CSM, GWCPM, SCPM   |   Executive Vice President – Enterprise Solutions, IIL 

The recently released 2017 Pulse of the Profession®, Success Rates Rise: Transforming the high cost of low performance, from the Project Management Institute (PMI)® brings us promising news:

Project success rates are rising.

As the report states: “For the first time in five years, more projects are meeting original goals and business intent and being completed within budget.” It goes on to say that the amount of “wasted” dollars per billion spent on projects has declined twenty percent from a year ago. This is certainly good news for all those organizations who have made the significant investment in improving overall project management maturity, and should serve as an inspiration for others that progress can be made with serious commitment to excellence.

But buried in the appendix, where PMI® breaks out the responses by various categories of respondents, there’s another story that’s of great interest—and that is the different perceptions held by Senior Executives and PMO Directors on their organization’s success in performing certain critical activities.

Following is the survey question and the responses from the two groups. (Note: I’ve combined the Excellent and Good scores for the Senior Executives and PMO Directors for their responses to each question.)

How would you rate your organization’s success in performing the following activities over the last three years?

Senior Execs
Excellent/Good
PMO Directors
Excellent/Good
Formulating strategy appropriate for changing market conditions

90%

56%

Prioritizing and funding the appropriate initiatives/projects

83%

54%

Feeding lessons from successful strategy implementation back into strategy formulation

77%

51%

Successfully executing initiatives/projects in order to deliver strategic results

82%

34%

Feeding lessons from failed strategy implementation back into strategy formulation

66%

31%

Clearly, the view from the top (that is, from the Senior Executive’s “perch”) is that the organization is a lot more successful at these activities than viewed from the PMO Director’s level. While there are significant differences of opinion in each area, I’d like to focus on the issue of Successfully executing initiatives/projects in order to deliver strategic results (82% vs 34%).

It’s as if these groups don’t even work in the same organization! Or, maybe even on the same planet.

Certainly, there are objective measures, when used, that can definitely confirm whether a project has been successfully executed and value has been delivered. To be sure, organizations are going far beyond the triple constraint of time, cost, and scope to measure success, but surely we should be able to tell whether a project has been successful or not. But there’s a 48-point difference in opinion on that score. I don’t know about you but that’s a “head scratcher” to me.

But, the differences in perception in the other answers are also a bit hard to decipher.

The key question is why? Why do we have such a marked difference in perception between Senior Executives and PMO Directors?

Are PMO Directors congenitally negative? Are Senior Executives hopelessly optimistic?

Do PMO Directors, who are close to where the “rubber meets the road,” see things that Executives just don’t, don’t want to, or just can’t see?

Do Senior Executives, by virtue of the fact they are accountable for darn near everything in the organization, give such high scores because it’s a direct reflection on their management capability?

To be sure, there is no single answer that can explain the stark differences between these two groups, and I bet each person who reads this blog will have their own, very valid, ideas about why this is the case.

What I do know, is that such disparate views indicate the yawning gap, the huge disconnect, between Senior Executives and PMO Directors. And the only way I know of to close this gap is relentless communication between the two. At the very least, PMO Directors and their Senior Executive counterparts should—in fact, must—agree on project success criteria.

After all, PMI’s Pulse says project success rates are climbing, but how can they climb in any organization where there is such a disagreement over what success really means?

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J. LeRoy Ward
is a highly respected consultant and adviser to Global Fortune 500 Corporations and government agencies in the areas of project, program and portfolio management. With more than 38 years of government and private sector experience, LeRoy specializes in working with senior executives to understand their role in project and program sponsorship, governance, portfolio management and the strategic execution of projects and programs.

 

Pulse of the Profession, Project Management Institute, and PMI are marks of the Project Management Institute, Inc.


...there's no success like failure, and...failure's no success at all.”

By J. LeRoy Ward, PMP, PgMP, PfMP, CSM, GWCPM, SCPM   |   Executive Vice President – Enterprise Solutions, IIL 

No matter how many times I read this line, or hear it sung by Bob Dylan in his song “Love Minus Zero/No Limit,” I think of projects that have, by any standard measure of project management, been massive failures, and yet over the years have turned out to be raging successes.

I’m thinking specifically of projects such as the Sydney Opera House, the Hubble Telescope, and Boston’s Big Dig. In some ways, these projects were just too big and too important to fail regardless of the time it took or what they cost. They just had to get done.

Michael Dean of Podio (part of Citrix) wrote a short but interesting article highlighting quite a few “budget busting” projects. In it, he provides a list of projects, most of which you probably know well or at least have heard of, that by conventional measures were failures.

Take the Sydney Opera House for example. That project was a whopping 1,400% (or so) over budget. The architect resigned in disgrace midway through the project vowing never to return to Australia again, so frustrated was he by the Sydneysiders he was reporting to. And yet, this iconic structure defines a country.

No visit to Australia is complete without visiting it, walking around its massive exterior, or floating by it as it juts out on Bennelong Point into Sydney Harbor. It’s a magnificent piece of work enjoyed by millions through the years (although, truth be told, I did find my seat to be a little uncomfortable during a performance there!). If you were to ask most folks in Australia today they would argue that the Sydney Opera House was nothing short of a majestic success.

Anyway, all this has me thinking that perhaps we spend too much time agonizing over a few bucks here, and a few months there. Maybe our definition of “project failure” needs to be adjusted some.

For example, if you lengthen the original business case by a few years from the original estimate, many projects would be considered successes rather than failures. Why do I say that? Because that’s what business writers, and maybe even Boeing itself, think about the 787 Dreamliner. Sure, if measured by its original business case, the plane is probably considered a failure, but most people believe that Boeing will recover all their lost costs and start making a lot of money because more and more customers appear willing to buy more of this innovative flying machine that will be around for a very long time.

In some cases, no one really knows how certain projects (especially large, complex endeavors that have never been done before) will end up, do they? After all, when they begin they are all based on estimates; but, as we know, estimates can change – for better or worse, by very wide margins.

Here’s another thought: maybe we even need to stop dwelling on project failure so much and start obsessing with our successes.

I’m not sure what that would do for the likes of Standish, Gartner, Forrester and others who make so much hay (and money) talking about project failure, but it might be good to take a different perspective every once in a while.

What’s your take? Have you had a massive failure that actually worked out great in the end?

By the way: If you’re a Bob Dylan fan, here’s an old clip I found on YouTube of him singing this great classic.

LeRoy Ward

J. LeRoy Ward is a highly respected consultant and adviser to Global Fortune 500 Corporations and government agencies in the areas of project, program and portfolio management. With more than 38 years of government and private sector experience, LeRoy specializes in working with senior executives to understand their role in project and program sponsorship, governance, portfolio management and the strategic execution of projects and programs.