Project ManagementRisk Management

5 Simple Reasons Why Project Management Processes Fail

Not all project processes are created equal. Too often, processes are created and adopted just for the sake of having them, as if it is a box to be checked off. This of course defeats the purpose, and projects that have to crawl through the swamp of inefficient processes might be worse off than the ones that have no processes at all. Could your project processes use a leg up? In a post for the PM Perspectives Blog, Elizabeth Harrin shares five reasons why projects fail:

  1. Processes are too informal.
  2. Processes are too bureaucratic.
  3. There is lack of understanding.
  4. Process risk is not understood.
  5. Project management itself is poor.

Processing… Processing…

If processes are informal, there may not be a point to calling them processes. If two people approach the same thing in two slightly different ways, stakeholders are not going to understand what is going on when they have to compare results. Instead, you should standardize processes wherever possible and practical, especially by way of helpful templates, so that nothing is ever a mystery.

Another big reason why processes fail is bureaucracy. Any time a process is too dense and time-consuming, project managers may decide to just work around the process, again defeating the purpose. Usually, the reason a process feels dense or impractical is because it was designed to solve a problem that no longer exists, but it continues to hang around in a vestigial capacity. Work with the PMO to clean up and modernize processes.

Alternatively, maybe the process is just fine, but nobody has been properly educated on the right way to use it. Whether it requires a simple email or explicit training, you need to ensure people feel confident about using processes. However, along the way you might find that the process is not quite as fine as you thought; maybe the logic that seemed perfect in theory runs into hiccups in application. Thus, it is important to practice process risk management the same as one would project risk management:

When you implement new processes, or even as the user of an existing process, be alert for points where it might fail you. You could even include these in your project risk register. For example, there could be a risk that the budget sign off process takes so long that your project start date is delayed, with the subsequent impact on achieving the business case benefits that would bring.

Lastly, if processes are failing, it could be that an unskilled project manager is just using the wrong processes at the wrong times, or using the right processes in the wrong ways. Get these project managers some additional mentoring and training to close those gaps in understanding.

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