Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Just one quarter successful? - where's the business case for that?

I’m consistently taken aback by the results of survey after survey. I am finding that:

1. Just 25% of projects deliver or over deliver.
2. Over 25% of projects are cancelled before completion.
3. The remainder overspend or deliver less than expected, or both (and often are very late).
4. For those that overspend the average overspend is a whooping 189% of the original estimate
5. Benefit delivery averages 66% of original estimates

So we spend more, take longer and get less than we expected when we start to implement a change – A lot more, a lot longer and a lot less on average.

I was at a seminar recently where Dr. James B. Rieley (who is a Principal at Carlton & Partners, the specialist management consulting group) said that in Mergers and Acquisitions the projected synergies are not realised in over 70% of cases. I think this is a symptom of the same disease.

I have looked closely at what makes change work, to identify what the systematic things that you need in place to get change delivered successfully. One thing is certain there are no "Magic bullets", no formulaic solution, but there are certainly things that can mess you up if you don’t do them well. The four things I see in successful change are (and in no particular order):

1. Executive Support – because people work on what they believe is the executive’s highest priority, ahead of other work.

2. Customer Involvement – because when customers have input throughout the change they are not surprised, and more importantly, neither are you. After all it’s customer’s that give you the only true measure of success, their continued business!

3. Experienced project managers – amazingly research shows that a massive 97% of successful projects have an experienced project manager at the helm. They will have learned hard lessons to gain that vital experience. Of course, have one doesn’t guarantee success, there are plenty of experienced project managers who don’t succeed every time, but not having one is an almost guaranteed recipe for failure.

4. Clear business objectives and defined project scope - A clear framework for the change in a simple to understood form ensures alignment to output goals and help the project(s) stay focused on the right things. It’s important not to bite off too much, if the scope focuses on achievable steps then the journey can be delivered well, elephants are eaten a mouthful at a time.

Your competitors are working hard to make change in their business - why? I think that they want your customers!

Will your response bring the expected benefits?

Businesses must be quick, they must be (successfully) changing as fast or faster than their competitors to get, and stay, ahead.

Every customer is looking for more, and better, products and better, faster service - for less. They won’t let you rest on your past success.

If you accept that even the most successful businesses only deliver project success in a quarter of project starts then there is a really good chance of stealing a march if you do the things that give you a better chance of being successful.

If you want to know more, or discuss these points further, especially if you disagree then make a comment here or drop me a note.

William M Buist
Things done right... ... in half the time.
Abelard Management Services Website

William Buist’s Profile

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