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In a survey conducted by PwC, about 59% of executives stated that 1 out of 4 projects fail to deliver the expected outcomes within the time and budget constraint. Another similar study, conducted by PMI with 5000 executives & project managers, also found that over the period of 2011 to 2018 only about 50-60% of their projects were either completed within the budget or time and of those, only about 60-70% projects met expected outcomes.
What could be the reason behind such an outcome?
The primary reason, cited by HBR in the article Why-good-projects-fail-anyway, is due to employees being involved in a large number of projects simultaneously. On top of that, there are new projects starting before the old ones are finished. This results in employees being overextended.
How does working on multiple projects simultaneously impact employees?
Working on and managing simultaneous projects leads to a lack of clarity on project objectives and priorities. This further impacts the decisions taken on key metrics which have a snowball effect, as it gets harder to track progress and, in turn, leading to stakeholders and employees losing focus.
Going deeper to understand the reasoning
- First of all, the executive team is oftentimes oblivious to the number and cumulative initiatives they have in progress. This is due to the limited line of sight- team leaders typically have visibility only into the activities of their own groups’ but limited to no-view of other groups’ activities.
- Additionally, functions and units often set their own priorities and launch initiatives in isolation. This may lead to not understanding the impact on neighboring functions and units.
- Finally, organizations lack the mechanism to identify and measure the demands that new projects can place on managers and employees who are expected to do the work.
But the present market condition requires continuous improvement in the end product
If organizations are to survive in competitive markets, the executive team must continuously tweak their offerings and improve their operations to create new products that feature emerging technologies and trends. At the same time, managers, who try to meet product or project development deadlines by shifting resources from one project to another, may succeed in the short-term. However, the continuous shuffling of resources will result in a harmful ripple effect over time.
Thus, the leadership is also under constant pressure to accelerate development and reduce the time it takes to get their merchandise to market. This is especially important for cutting-edge technology or in-demand goods, as McKinsey's recent article highlights that the development of business operations is fundamental to keep the company growing and reinventing. According to the article, the one factor that sets winning companies apart is their ability to successfully build new businesses and to do that repeatedly.
But how can executives effectively prioritize the projects or solve the conundrum?
The short answer is that complex projects have to be designed differently, as highlighted in the HBR article - Why-good-projects-fail-anyway. The article recommends injecting a series of mini-projects into the overall plan. This is to provide rapid-results where each team is responsible to achieve a miniature result of the overall project result and each mini-project is designed to deliver its result quickly.
For the team to succeed at their goal, which is a mini version of the overall goal, they would be forced to find out what, if anything, is missing from their plans as they go forward. Along the way, they would discover, for example, the possible resistance and obstacles. Finally, when the team has ironed out the challenges on a small scale, this pilot work can then become a model for the larger project or teams. This would either engage in further rapid-results initiatives or roll the system out to the whole organization—but now at a higher level of confidence that the project will have the intended impact.
As the Pareto Principle suggests that 80% of the outcomes come from the 20% inputs, it is, therefore, important to recognize early in the process which 20% of projects will lead to the highest value results.
StrategyCo.Global supports organizations in their development activities with its on-demand workforce. Executives can utilize its on-demand workforce to conduct quick deep-dives and test hypotheses to progress forward.
StrategyCo.Global’s specializes in business-domain topics primarily in the area of strategy in supply chain, business development and operations.
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