Real life statistics on project execution conclude that two-thirds of projects fail. But there are fundamental steps that prevent project breakdowns. This staggering project failure statistic applies to all types and sizes of projects. It includes projects that fail to deliver any product or service, and those that deliver a product that does not provide the expected benefits.
Most projects either succeed according to plan or miss the mark terribly. This distribution demonstrates that project success or collapse is not random. There are definite causes for a project’s outcome. Project failure is preventable.
This article discusses ways the project manager can prevent project breakdowns.
Simplify Execution Plan
Complexity breeds project failure. Complicated projects have a large number of different and inter-linked parties with differing drivers. Seek to minimize both the number of contributors and the number of their interfaces.
Align Contributors and Objectives
Clarify the project purpose and objectives, then align stakeholders to these objectives. Good communication is important. Communication is a key ingredient in making sure everyone is aligned to the project objectives, it reduces complexity by making sure all stakeholders are working towards the same goal.
Leverage the Project Team
Another way to reduce complexity is by recruiting a diverse project team that is fully aligned. A diverse effective project team can solve difficult problems. But make sure to include the right people as team members; in most situations there is someone internal to the organization that has an answer to an outstanding perplexing question.
The quality of preparation is a major determining factor in project success. Provide proper planning. Early definition of objectives and the production of a realistic schedule are both important.
Maintain Realistic Expectations
Realize the intrinsic limitation of manpower, and temper your expectations. Resource-load the initial project schedule to uncover resource constraints. The weather itself may also be a restraining force.
Consider Mixed Contracts
It would seem that lump-sum contracts are better because they place the cost overrun burden on the subcontractor, but the subcontractor may have to cut corners to stay on budget. This inevitably results to the detriment of the customer and end product operability. So lump-sum and cost reimbursable contracts appear to be fairly similar. Mixed contracts, however, are more promising. In a mixed contract the engineering and procurement are contracted to a first contractor on a cost reimbursable basis and the actual construction contracted to another contractor on a fixed cost basis. Mixed contracts appear to provide the right level of control missing in other contracts.
Remote project sites make project critical data difficult to obtain and imprecise at best. The worksite may be non-negotiable. But recognize the negatives of remoteness. Try to keep the project local, if possible.
Limit New Technology
New technology has a strong correlation to project delays and costs. The startup phase, in particular, is impacted by new technology induced issues. Try to limit the insertion of advanced technology.
Acquire Permits Early
Permitting delays play a significant contribution to project failure. Acquire all permits early on and before project execution. Recognize that unstable governments are notorious at creating permitting problems.
Failure is not inevitable nor random. Much can be done to support execution and ensure a successful project conclusion. Consider these ways to prevent common failures a checklist to review, examine, and signoff on before commencement of every project.
For more on Prevention of Project Execution Failure consider Jeremie Averous’ Practical Project Risk Handbook for Project Managers.