Accountability For Poor Project Performance
"We've talked about poor project performance and how it happens, but ultimately whose problem is it?”
Many organizations expect IT to own project delivery. But IT is, at best, only accountable for the technical delivery stream and, while many IT project managers relish the opportunity to lead projects, technically-led projects are usually a recipe for value destruction. Indeed, technically led projects indicate a Level-1 maturity organization - the least effective maturity level.
Some organizations choose instead to allocate accountability for project delivery to the Project Portfolio Management Office (PPMO). But most PPMOs don't have the authority to do much about project performance even if they wanted to. They can introduce new (cost controlled focused) methodologies, and then ‘huff and puff’ for their acceptance, but in practice, they are often ignored. For example, two years and tens of millions of dollars after the introduction of their new home-grown project methodology, a bank found that less than 25% of project teams were using it.
Some organizations assign accountability to special project teams established to ‘Uplift our project delivery performance’. Often made up of project professionals, these project teams look to upgrade the project management tools and techniques - but use the project cost control mindset instead of addressing the root problems caused by the absence of a business perspective. And few such projects last long anyway. One such team spent $32 million and delivered nothing. Of course, some software suppliers did very well for themselves on the project.
All of these approaches still view project performance through the project/cost control perspective and tend to ignore the business/governance value and strategic investment perspectives. So who is accountable?
When you take the additional business strategy lenses into account, it becomes clear that (the lack of) project delivery success is the Board and Executive Team’s problem.
The Importance Of Your Value Delivery Capability
Value delivery is a required capability in every organization. As projects deliver strategy, it is a core capability. It requires all of the value delivery lenses to be used in order to be effective. Failure to address and improve your value delivery capability will damage your organization, both internally and externally, as well as being very expensive. It will…
- Destroy over half the possible value from projects. To subsequently earn back this value you usually have to commission more projects at additional cost with, probably, the same (poor) net level of success.
- Delay business or competitive opportunities. The project outcomes are under-delivered and/or are delivered late, and workarounds and other makeshift solutions are often needed to cope with project shortfalls. These increase ongoing costs and reduce the net value.
- Waste capital. Inappropriate projects are funded and continue to be funded even when they are unviable or irrelevant, or while more valuable projects are waiting to be funded.
- Create a competitive disadvantage. If your competitors can deliver more projects and more value in less time and at less cost, they can create a sustainable lower cost organization.
Excellent execution is a strategy in itself. Each Board and Executive Team needs to…
1. Set the standards of success.
What constitutes acceptable ‘success’.
Currently most organization’s success standards are very low and only use the project cost control measures, allowing inadequate business results to drift by as acceptable.
2. Sustain the focus on improving the organization’s value delivery capability.
Many organizations start to tackle this problem but the effort fades out, often within months. All capability uplift programs need to be relentlessly pursued until they deliver the results required (usually at least 2 years).
3. Understand all options available.
Value delivery management allows you to immediately break out of your current single lens project delivery perspective to realize exponentially greater business results.
4. Plan, govern, and measure compliance with the new value delivery processes and lenses.
Value delivery is an area where everyone has a theory and a belief system but few deliver the full results, so you have to overcome protests from experienced project practitioners who believe they know a better way.
5. Measure the progressive improvement in business results delivered through your projects.
Today, less than one-third of organizations actually measure their realized benefits and even less do this effectively.