This PDF by Dick Billows describes both what works and what doesn’t work in project performance. Using project success rate as the basis of measurement, Billows knows that it might seem like some organizations “get it” (have a successful increase in project success) while others don’t. But it isn’t just luck: set processes and follow-through optimization is how organizations succeed in getting projects to complete successfully, and to that end he provides a list of best practices that can help you in your next project.
Billows begins with what organizations can do wrong while they’re trying to be better at projects. One big mistake is only focusing on the big picture: don’t forget all of the little projects that can, collectively, consume almost half the time of all your resources. Another big mistake comes from the assumption that all executives know how to provide strategic guidance. This assumption can lead to project managers and executives getting halfway through a project before realizing that both parties don’t understand what exactly is happening with the project or with the business objective it’s supposed to support.
He then moves to what organizations need to do to have success in raising project success rates. For instance: maintaining tight control over initiation can have a profound effect on the overall success of every project:
We control initiation by having an organizational project approval process which a project has to pass before it can start. This doesn’t take long and it is astounding how many of the puppy projects (projects that constantly demand attention but have very little possible impact) go away once the initiating executive must commit to the business value that the project will produce. In our experience, the inventory of small projects reduces itself by one-third.
Billows also points out how successful organizations are able to allocate priorities and resources more effectively during the initiation process. If a very important, very valuable project comes into play, all of the other projects must lose some of their priority. This sounds like it’s a no brainer, but consider how many times there are 3 highest priority projects happening at the same time. While a favorite of IT, it’s simply impossible to have three efforts that are all equally the most important thing happening in the organization.
Utilizing the tips that Billows provides and avoiding the mistakes he identifies is a great start to making your organization much more apt to complete projects successfully.