W. Edwards Deming defined ‘in control’ as: “when the goals of the system can be predictably met better than 95% of the time.” By this definition projects are definitely ‘out of control’.

We are not short of controls in the project environment. Indeed, you could say that projects are one of the most visibly controlled environments in most organisations. 

Yet, the success rate for projects and programs, depending on the measure you use, is between 40% and 5% - not 95%. Based on Deming's[1] definition, most projects are wildly ‘out of control’. Why?

The reason is not that we lack a control focus. Indeed, we have comprehensive methodologies that emphasize control—PRINCE2’ stands for ‘PRojects IN A Controlled Environment’. The answer is actually quite simple.

Most of the critical controls that are required are not project management controls.

Yes, you read that correctly.

Most of the critical controls required are not project management controls – they are business, investment, project governance and portfolio management controls.

These outside-of-the-project controls are too often missing or deficient. Deficient controls are actually worse than missing controls, as deficient controls give the impression of control when the control is ineffective.

The lack of effective controls leads directly to wasted expenditure and value loss. TOP's research has repeatedly shown this waste and loss can result in over 50% of the available (net) value being missed, lost or wasted. Any missing or deficient controls are costing you real money and destroying real business opportunities.

To explain the nature of these controls and give you the capability to check your existing controls we have put together some videos together for you.  

EXPLORE OUR MASTERCLASS Program and Project Control

If you are accountable for project performance and results, you need to know which controls are effective and which need to be acted upon.

You will be quite surprised at some of these key controls and their impacts on your results.

Topics: Project Governance

Further Reading



[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/W._Edwards_Deming

Revision History

First published: Simms, J. (Oct 2014) as "Projects Are 'Out Of Control' - But Why?"

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