Its time to stop this madness! (2)

Its time to stop hoping that paying high dollars for project directors will solve the problem. It won’t. Continued reliance on ‘heroes’ is madness.

The reliance on project director/manager ‘heroes’ to bring projects in ignores the complexity of modern projects. One person cannot do this alone, they need the full support not only of the project team but also of the organization. Everyone needs to be capable of delivering the results, as the following example illustrates.

A major manufacturer commenced a major overhaul of all of its systems. This was a ‘make or break’ strategy to break out of the systems environment that was holding the company back and put in modern systems.
The project (read IT) budget was massive. It could not be allowed to fail.

The company went to the market and hired ten top, experienced project directors and set them to work.

This program of work had extremely high visibility inside and outside of the company. Any delays, failures or problems would be very visible. The Project Directors were under no illusions as to their task — DELIVER!

The project controls, checks and balances were second to none. Each major project was externally evaluated in detail each month, regular health checks were conducted and the PMO kept a tight rein through the reporting.

The trouble was, the company itself was not up to the task.

  • It did not allocate its best staff, but those they didn’t need for running the business (a business under pressure keeps its best staff to run the business). Indeed, one business unit retrenched staff (to make budget) in an area just before it had to release staff for the projects. The project then received fewer staff than it needed stretching the team and reducing the outcomes delivered.
  • Requirements were defined in systems-terms, so when the systems were delivered they were found to not match how the company could do business (legally at times). Immediate, clunky workarounds become the norm — across all of the world wide manufacturing plants.
  • Change management was left to the business with both inadequate input from the project teams and inadequate skills on the ground. Management thought that issuing edicts that ‘change must happen’ would make it happen. It didn’t. The business was consistently behind in any change planning and execution activities resulting in it never being ready for any systems implementation causing mayhem during the first few months after each systems implementation.
  • There was strict technical architectural controls on the systems but few design controls resulting in one system being designed in way that would have wiped out the company’s profits for the next few years. Remediation took 9 months.

The Project Directors were being measured on ‘delivering’ and did so.

  • The first major implementation almost brought the company to a halt. Only a major focus on creating workarounds allowed production to continue
  • The second major implementation was pulled six weeks from its due date when it was found that the business side had done almost nothing to get ready for its implementation — six months delay (blamed on the business).
  • The sixth major implementation was pulled four months from implementation to be redesigned. And so on.

Each Project Director was highly experienced and capable of delivering a project. But they were not experienced and demonstrably not capable in value delivery management — delivering the desired business outcomes and associated benefits. This is a different perspective and requires a different outlook and skills. It also requires an active, capable and supported business. 

Far from being the company’s saviour, this program of work managed by these highly expensive Project Directors caused such disruption that the company lost market share then stock market value and then was taken over.

The point is that this is not unusual. I could write case study after case study illustrating how highly expensive project managers (and cheaper ones too) fail to deliver the required business outcomes and value.


All project participants — the project team, the project leadership team, PMO, governance team and business in general need to focus on value delivery management, have to understand what needs to be done and how to do it.

Hence Value Delivery Management Guides that cover all of these roles for each Value Delivery Management process. Everyone needs to be ‘on the same page’ literally and metaphorically if you’re to be successful.


© Jed Simms, Australia, 2008 — Can be reproduced with source acknowledgement

Complete sets of VDM Guides exist at for Project Governance, Prioritisation, Benefits Management and Risk Management

Partial sets of VDM Guides are currently being published in the areas of Project Management, Change Management and Project Control.

In addition, we are publishing “How to establish …” Guides at to enable you to successfully implement these value delivery approaches.

Topics: Strategy Execution

Further Reading



[1] ...

Revision History

First published: Simms, J. (Aug 2008) as "Its Time To Stop This Madness! (2)"

Updated: Chapman, A. (March 2020), Revisions and Corrections