Have you been sucked into a project management black hole?

Feb 3, 2023

Most summers you’ll find me somewhere in the shade with a chardonnay by my side and something interesting to read. This year, I’ve gravitated towards a lot of those silly-season best and worst lists. Anyone that knows me won’t be surprised that I took particular interest in things like Auckland’s 50 best restaurants, top 10 fishing spots and top three putting mistakes. But it also got me thinking about the best and worst of project management. Over the past few years, we’ve run many project audits – we call them inflight “fitness tests” – as part of our quality assurance offering. When I look at these en masse, unsurprisingly, the same five weaknesses always crop up.

Here are the top five project management mistakes that I see time and time again.

Lack of a business case

Fact: projects aren’t just about what’s being delivered. They’re also about whether what was built justifies the investment of time, money and people-power. How do you know if it was all worth it? That comes back to whether the true impact of a project has been validated by the business – something that should be, but often isn’t, well-articulated in the business case.

Worse, many businesses dive headfirst into a project without a business case. This is a major red flag. How can you start a project when you don’t even know what business problem you’re solving? It’ll only lead to a plethora of problems: poor decision-making, projects that take too long (and too much money) to get off the ground, or projects that don’t add any business value at all.

Poor governance

Did the project have the right structures, information flow, processes and protocols in place to ensure accountability, transparency, responsiveness and sovereignty? If not, it’s that lack of control that will ultimately derail project delivery. The holy trinity looks like the project manager, sponsor and steering committee working together towards a common goal. But, when you’re constantly fielding changes to timings and unforeseen costs, stakeholders start to lose confidence. The result? The project becomes compromised.

Lack of confidence in the project manager

What’s more, if the project manager has “lost the room” and doesn’t have the confidence of the steering committee, then you’re on a hiding to nothing. Sponsors and steering committees need three things:

  1. To recognise the importance of capability and chemistry in their project teams and bake that recognition into project start-up
  2. To monitor and measure the impacts of gaps in capability and a lack of project team chemistry
  3. Most importantly, the courage to act on any concerns they have around these risks

Be brave, especially around key project roles, and remember that if you can’t change the people… change the people.

Dissatisfied stakeholders

What’s the best way to evaluate a project’s success? The usual touch points are on-time delivery, within budget and to the original scope. But in reality, very few projects meet all these targets, and each one missed is a hammer blow to what really counts – stakeholder satisfaction.

A KPMG report on global project management reveals only 19% of projects deliver stakeholder satisfaction. Why is that? Some will say it comes down to the delivery framework, but that answer is only beating around the bush. It’s people, and more specifically, the people in key roles who probably don’t have the skillset or capabilities to make the hard decisions when called upon.

Project manager isn’t a good fit

In the throes of the COVID pandemic, I talked about the return of the “trusted expert” and how finding the right expert for your project will make or break its success. Assign an introverted project manager to a sprawling, complex project, and it’ll be like throwing them into a lion’s den. Vice versa, an over-confident, emotionally stunted project manager will likely under-deliver on all the granular details.

The Luminate difference

Choose the A-team for fast, successful project delivery. That’s our promise to you – guaranteed.

At Luminate, we’re experts at fighting project management fires. We don’t put fires out – our people run directly to the source. We dive deep into the heart of a project – the people – to quickly uncover what’s stopping the project from moving forward, and what’s needed to get the team back on track. What’s more, we don’t “spray and walk away”. We provide ongoing mentoring, skills development and peer review, so your business continues to deliver successful projects over and over again.

Working with us is simple:

  1. Book a call with Jarrod here https://luminate.nz/schedule/
  2. Appoint an expert recovery manager
  3. Get your projects back on track

Once you book a call, you’ll have taken the first step to deliver successful projects.