A Project Manager Or Project Leader – Who Drives Higher Project Success Rate – Part I

Men make history and not the other way around. In periods where there is no leadership, society stands still. Progress occurs when courageous, skillful leaders seize the opportunity to change things for the better.-                          — Harry S. Truman

Perfectly defined – what it takes to be a leader! Great leader is someone who leads people through difficult times. No matter how interesting and funny it is to talk about politics, this article focuses on project leadership and its correlation to project success rate. Project Leader

What Do You Mean By Difficult Times?

There are empirical evidences and statistics [1] gathered from past data, that certainly concludes that success rate of project delivery is alarmingly lower, e.g. Standish Group’s Chaos report published over the years has identified project success rate has been less than 40% [2], (Challenged Project Percentage: > 40%, Failed Project Percentage: > 20%). These numbers and Chaos report are well known, understood (and sometimes questioned) by industry however recently I came across another interesting findings ‘Why project managers succeed’– survey of project managers and managers of project managers was carried out and this what it found-

“90% of the survey respondents rated project managers’ technical skills as average or good and 75% rated interpersonal skills as average or poor.” According to the survey, technical competence and skills are not the issue, the real issue lies with inter-personal and people skill so that in tough situation, project stakeholders look for someone to turn around the situation.

Critical Success Factors for Projects

what are critical factors that drives higher success rate

Let me share a list of critical success factors based on a research. The secondary research on ‘A Model of Critical Success Factors for Software Projects[3] identified 35 critical success factors (CSF). Some of these factors are

  • Project communication
  • Top management support
  • Clear project goal
  • Reliability of output
  • Project planning
  • Teamwork, project team coordination
  • Quality control, Client acceptance, accuracy of output
  • Reduce ambiguity, maximize stability
  • Realistic expectations
  • User involvement.

These factors are all required to ensure project success rate. The beauty of these critical success factors (CSF) is they are not a checklist items. It is difficult for a project executioner to simply tick it out. It is challenging to read between the lines and even more difficult to ensure CSF is accomplished. So what are the challenges involved?

Challenges in Delivering Projects

challenges project manager face in driving higher success rate

Even if we have to take a specific case of IT industry, organization understand IT investment are risky considering the past data that considerable IT projects do not deliver on time, on budget target or to deliver planned business value (RoI/ goal). A recent KPMG report on project management (pdf link) concludes that high number of organization now understand value of project management, have project visibility to uppermost management level yet in its another survey, more than 60% of the participating companies acknowledged that their project management was not delivering as expected and it need improvement. The reasons/symptoms suggested by the respondents were like

  • Tight/Unreasonable project delivery timelines
  • Loosely defined customer requirements
  • Poorly managed project scope
  • Absence of well-defined approach to/ mismanaged change requests

If you closely look at these reasons of project failure, you will realize that they aren’t really causes of failure but these are just indications of some other bigger problem happening with projects. And looking at bigger problems you will realize that you need someone who can look at bigger picture and lead the project overcoming those issues.

Leadership: Connecting Dots

Today we can see lot more awareness about project management profession, significantly high number of PMP® and PRINCE® certified project management professionals compared to the project management professionals a decade ago. It is quite obvious for someone to think that such increased awareness and certification would have resulted in higher success rate for projects. Unfortunately that is not the case.

There is no denying that project management processes are important, PMP®, PRINCE2® certifications are important, but at the same time these are not sufficient to ensure project success. Project managers might focus on ‘what, when, how’ aspects of project still something is missing – and that’s project leadership – to take project through troubled waters and deliver successfully.

Don’t take it negatively – project managers are great people who are backbone and driving force to plan, execute, control, monitor and close project : to meet project goal. Going by PMBoK® reference, certified project manager is expected to demonstrate skills to manage ten knowledge areas

  1. Project Integration Management
  2. Project Scope Management
  3. Project Time Management
  4. Project Cost Management
  5. Project Quality Management
  6. Project Human Resource Management
  7. Project Communications Management
  8. Project Risk Management
  9. Project Procurement Management
  10. Project Stakeholder Management

This is challenging job, project managers have to perform. Again technically performing well in these project areas does not result into successful project delivery. Project leadership can drive failing project to be successful and in absence of project leadership, a project can fail.

In the next post we will see, what it takes to be a leader – project leader.

References:

[1] Extreme Chaos, tech. report, Standish Group Int’l,2001

[2] http://www.math.vu.nl/~x/the-rise-and-fall-of-the-chaos-report-figures.pdf

[3] http://www.emeraldinsight.com/journals.htm?articleid=17062381

image reference: wheel.ie

Additional readings about project management, leadership

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