Guest Blogger – Michelle Thompson

We all know the drill, the project starts, the project (hopefully) gets delivered and the ‘success’ of the project is then generally measured in terms of whether the project was delivered on time and on budget. But is that really all that matters to determine if that particular project was successful? Is it possible for a project to be delivered on time and on budget yet not be an overall success for the client or service providers? From my experience the answer is yes!

So here’s the deal; projects are discrete packets of work. The projects that an organisation undertakes, along with its day-to-day operations all work together to contribute to the overall performance and success of the business. Therefore the impact that a poorly managed project can have on an organisation well after that project has been finished should never be underestimated. A ‘poorly managed’ project can in fact be delivered on time and to budget.

Poorly managed projects often have a lack of emphasis on objectives broader than cost or time. This may be demonstrated via an enthusiasm to select the ‘cheapest’ bid, regardless of the value it provides. It could be shown through a ‘just get in and get it done’ attitude, where outside stakeholders are avoided in order to try and minimise timeframes and workload. It is often seen in projects where the importance of team health and relationships with stakeholders or internally within organisations are disregarded as they are seen as ‘unimportant’ or a ‘nice to have’. Sound familiar?

Ironically, quite often we even go searching for individuals with characteristics which drive these behaviours! How many large-scale Project Directors have been engaged because of their ability to ‘drive results’ and ‘just get the job done’? And by the way, don’t worry that they’re a bit abrasive and not good with people, because we need this project delivered. Too often we see examples of these types of individuals who are able to deliver projects on time, but leave a trail of destruction in their wake. Consider the impact to organisations over the long term; higher employee turnover, more sick leave, negative publicity, decreased morale, lack of motivation and so on. Poorly managed projects may well be delivered on budget however they may end up costing more to maintain than they are worth.  This can lead to burn out and fear driven behaviours. People won’t be willing to go the extra mile or do more than expected because they will be burnt out, or they will be too scared to step outside of their comfort zone because of fear of repercussions. The long term impacts on your business can be catastrophic, requiring excessive time and money to repair.

The long term success of a project is attributed to many things. Undoubtedly money will always be of focus; however the ability to deliver projects within a set budget is only one factor in measuring project success.. For a project to be truly successful it needs to have delivered broader benefits back to the business and not cause more harm than good. Invest the time to develop a performance framework that drives performance in key areas such as:

  • Stakeholder relations
  • Team health
  • Quality
  • Safety
  • Environmental
  • Knowledge management and innovation

….As well as cost and time.

Engaging Project Directors and management teams that recognise the value of these aspects and who have the capability to consistently drive the team to perform across all of these areas is paramount to enable organisations to deliver projects which are truly successful. A poorly managed project that comes in on time and on budget may cost more than you bargained for!