Learning from the misfortunes of others
For as long as I can remember the reported failure rate for programmes and projects has been stuck at the seventy per cent level. This is despite the huge increase in PPM qualifications, the adoption of the Gateway Review Scheme by Government and the sterling efforts of our own professional body. There is also an abundance of rich publicly available case study material documenting contemporary Government PPM (programme and project management) fiascos. So, collectively, why are we not applying the knowledge gleaned from failure and improving PPM delivery?
In Richard's Bacon's excellent book entitled 'Conundrum - Why every government get things Wrong - and what we can do about it' the author reminds us of some recent PPM horror stories:
Richard Bacon MP is the guest speaker at a Programme Management SIG event, in Central London scheduled for 18th June.
- The National Programme for IT in the NHS
- The InterCity West Coast Rail Franchise Fiasco
- The Child Support Agency and many more
What is so depressing is that the same old common causes of failure emerge time and time again:
- Ill-defined roles and responsibilities
- a high churn / turnover of senior staff
- corporate amnesia with lessons not being learnt or applied
- skills / experience gaps
- woeful user / stakeholder engagement
- poor financial management
- sloppy procurement
- inadequate / inappropriate risk management
- misunderstanding the cultural challenges.
In his book Richard Bacon reminds us that 'culture eats strategy' for breakfast.
When I was appointed as a Government Gateway Reviewer many years ago I was advised to expect to see these recurring common causes of programme and project failure and sadly I must report that I have.
In my own research, undertaken as part of a professional doctorate, I was keen to understand why intelligent and capable PPM professionals believed these same mistakes were being repeated again and again. 'Yes' there is a lack of awareness, particularly amongst senior key decision makers. Others were blinded by 'optimism.' Yet a large number of practitioners while knowing of the generic reasons for failure choose to ignore them in the heat of delivery. I label this the hypocrisy of management.
Leo Buscaglia (20th century academic and author) said poignantly that ‘Change is the end result of learning’
The challenge for the PPM community is not simply to note with interest the next report highlighting the next project fiasco but to 'internalise' and apply the learning.
This event promises to provide delegates with the best two hours Programme Management CPD of all-time and it has been scheduled so as not to interfere with World Cup football coverage.
Early booking is highly recommended.