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How To Fail In Project Management (Without Really Trying)
Case Study, Deadline for Report Submission: May 15, 2019 Department of Electrical Engineering, School of Engineering University of Management and Technology, Lahore
§c Hassan Shahid
A project can be defined as a set of inputs and outputs required to achieve a particular goal. Projects can range from easy to complex and can be overseen by one individual or a hundred. Activities are frequently depicted and allocated by top management to project manager.
Project management is the practice of initiating, planning, executing, controlling and closing the work of a team to accomplish specific goals in a given time span. The primary challenge of project manage- ment is to achieve all of the project goals within the given constraints. A project is generally considered to be a triumph in the event that it accomplishes the goals as indicated by their acknowledgment criteria, inside a defined timescale and plan. In the hunt for better project management skills and tactics experience plays a very critical role, this experience might lead to either positive or negative consequences.
Considering the negative consequence as failure, it a well known proverb “who never made a mistake never made a discovery”. Most of the valuable management lessons learnt are those that resulted from failure.
Analyzing and examining the project failure and its catas- trophe in the beginning can help avoid resulting in tragedy and crisis.
Consider the real life examples of project mismanagement and observe the insight- Borland’s upgrade of DBaseIV was so poorly handled that the product had to be removed from store shelves due to detailed debugging, costing the com- pany tremendous expense and customer goodwill.
Denver’s new multibillion dollar inter- national airport was plagued by numerous construction delays, contracting problems and financing difficulties that its opening date was consistently delayed costing the city and airport authority more than 1 million a day in late penalties and interest. Most of the organizations of the world spend a lot of time in planning and implementing a speculation but far too little time to critically evaluate and learn from their experiences. Little time could be spend on valuable questions and answering them such as
1) Was the investment worthwhile?
2) Did it go according to plan?
3) If yes, how If not, why not?
Committing same mistakes again and again without noticing them would just lead to disaster. Noticing them makes the difference because where there is failure, there is the potential for learning. It is not that bigger and established organizations
don’t commit mistakes. no matter how successful they have been or will be , they might continue to make mistakes. Considering the Ford Corporation in this context, is has a history of highs and lows. It dominated the automobile world with its Model-T and mass production techniques, then allowed itself to standstill to the point when General Motors took advantage and topped to the number one position. In 1960, Ford introduced its model Edsel which proved total flop, yet within four years it was able to follow it up with the hugely successful Ford Mustang. That is the nature of business events the cycle moves through both highs and lows. For every project success, there will always be at least one failure. Failure should not to be pushed aside, but studied. Learn from mistakes learn how not to do it. J. Edwards Deming’s famous saying is get the process right and then repeat it. Learn what did not work and then avoid it in the future. In either case, make the result, unpleasant though it may be, an opportunity for personal and organizational learning. Sometimes the project failures are so small in scope that their losses can quickly be erased. Other times the failure is more massive, resulting in long term or even permanent suffering, such failures should most importantly be not forgotten.
The main work of a project manager is to ensure that projects are handled and managed competently resulting in positive results. A constraint in project management can be defined as any restriction that affects the projects efficiency. Balancing the constraints of project such as time, money, scope and team is one of the main objectives yet problematic for the project manager. It is a common myth conception that well established companies never fail in their projects. This is certainly not true, right decisions in right time can play a vital role in preventing project from failure. Some major factors if not considered or thought about can ruin project’s chances of success, will be discussed here.
III. HOW TO ENSURE A PROJECT’S FAILURE?
1. Ignore the project environment including stakeholders
Stakeholder’s is a term used in Project Management to refer to any group, internal or external to the company that has an active stake in the project’s development. They can be in the form of clients, overall marketplace, internal functional depart- ments, top management, project team and external groups. To
ignore the potential power of such stakeholder groups is fool- hardy and often results from either ignorance or complacency on the part of the developing organization. Consider the case of the Bailly nuclear power plant proposed by the Northern Indiana Public Service Company (NIPSCO) in 1972. It was originally proposed to be located adjacent to the Indiana Dunes National Lake Shore in northwest Indiana. NIPSCO acquired all necessary construction permits and began work on the site in the belief that it was important to build such plants in order to easily attract customers. Since they are over dependent on oil they would get oil on a low rate. At the moment the idea of the plant seemed to be right considering the consisting high oil price throughout the decade. But, the neighbors of the proposed new facility had other ideas. Influential home owners of the neighborhood together opposed the plant because they would be adjacent to the nuclear power plant. Together they formed “Save the Dunes Council”. Meanwhile many other environmental and special interest groups joined by the home owners, who filed their own court order in support of the Save the Dunes Council’s position. Their concern was for the environment and fear for the contamination of a large section of Lake Michigan. After years of legal session at the United States Supreme Court (where NIPSCO won), the utility determined that the continual legal and social battles in support of the facility were likely to continue indefinitely. Finally, in 1982, after ten years spent trying to develop the nuclear power plant, NIPSCO withdrew its proposal. All that remained was a very large hole NIPSCO had dug at the proposed site and a total cost to the utility of more than 200 million dollars. This case reflects us the problems that occur when project organizations forget their client base or assume they know more than their stakeholder groups.This case is basically one case of the issues that can happen when venture associations overlook their customer base or expect they know more than their partner gatherings. One clear message that comes through on numerous occasions is the common intensity of such partner bunches in supporting or defeating an undertaking’s effective advancement. The result is to hold up under at the top of the priority list that not all partners are outside to the association. Numerous tasks have been wrecked because of restriction from other utilitarian gatherings. Preceding the “go” choice, one profoundly significant factor must be considered: the receptivity of the association’s inside condition to the proposed task. On the off chance that there is the faintest doubt of disharmony, it is critical to require investment to reassess the reasons and make restorative move, incorporating working with partner gatherings to comprehend their worries or making vital changes in accordance with the undertaking.
2. Push a new technology to market too quickly
The launch of a new product always poses with questions referring to its quality, safety standards and other risks. Rush- ing in launch of a product without rectifying any of its tested function and malfunction, result in negative impact on the society. Balance should be maintained between being the first to launch and ensure that the product will perform in positive and prosper way.
DeHavilland’s a British aviation manufacturer urged to be first to introduce a commercial jet in the market. In 1952 It manufactured the model Comet, whose faulty design ultimately killed large number of people and by 1954 was withdrawn from the market. While, the first American jetliner, Boeing’s 707, made appropriate use of many of the engineer- ing lessons learned from the Comet and created a safer and hugely profitable product.
3. Don’t bother building in fallback options
Projects often go in turbulence, but to what extent they go is a challenge. Analyzing the products performance and brainstorming question such has “What if?” before they even arise is a quality of a good project manager. This helps in getting feedback and response about the products workability which will eventually help in rectifying the challenge. This factor is so much important for any project manager to focus on that without having a plan B in mind the project will undoubtedly fail very bad. Failing to have a fallback option can leave the project stand nowhere. However, successful project managers are those who are best in abling to adapt to the new situation with flexibility, look for opportunities, and bring their project back on track.
4. When problems occur, shoot the one most visible
It is a common practice exercised that when a problem occur’s panic spreads from the top management to lower management. Under such circumstances project managers start searching for the scapegoat rather than finding actual reason for problem arise and troubleshooting it. American mindset in this context is “Go hard on the problem but soft on the people” This theory will be more productive and relaxing. Strategy of famous saying “Fix the problem, not the blame” should be adopted. Prior to making personnel changes, ask the question, “What do we hope to accomplish by this change?” Counterproductive attitude ultimately does little to solve the problems that brought the project to its current state. In state of problem harsh and punishing attitude won’t get the problem solved. It is important to consider first the reason for such actions and the message we intend to send.
5. Let new ideas starve to death from inertia
The following example can help understand the projects failure. Xerox had a working prototype of a personal computer, equipped with mouse, word processing software, and a laser printer, by 1972. In 1970 due to political instability and roadblocks, Xerox never developed the Alto into a commercial product, thereby sacrificing millions in profits over the next two decades. The top management of the company did not want to take a risk due to its inadequate financial position. The surprising part is that Xerox took a huge risk back in 1960 when launching it’s model 914 copier which resulted in massive success, revolutionizing office technology. In 1979, Founder of Apple Corporation Steve Jobs was given a tour of Xerox’s research facility in Palo Alto. He was amazed to see the product Alto but surprised more that Xerox had failed
to launch the machine in market, he was sure that it would have set a new standard in the personal computer industry. Xerox had developed the machine almost six years ago but had been sitting on it, losing its dominant position in personal computers by not taking risk in the right time.
6. Don’t bother conducting feasibility studies
Feasibility Study is an assessment of the practicality of a proposed project. Some of the common questions such as Why waste time checking to determine whether a new technology will work? Why worry about harmful side effects? Why bother considering customer concerns? If not assessed will ultimately lead to project failure. Project managers use feasibility studies to find out the pros and cons of undertaking a project before they invest a lot of time and money into it. Feasibility studies also can provide a company’s management with crucial information that could prevent the company from entering blindly into risk Under projects feasibility studies comes investor analysis, cost analysis, technical analysis, cultural analysis, environmental analysis etc. The benefit of accurate and reasonable feasibility planning is that it locks the company into a mode of planning, then execution. This approach is equivalent to the “Ready, aim, fire” model that typifies effective companies. Eurotunnel Corporation intended to build a train that would connect England with France through English Channel. For this three tunnels were bored under the English Channel. Soon after one year of commis- sioning, the Eurotunnel Corporation was set to default on more than 12 billion of debt. Economic analysis was demonstrating that people found joy to travel in light, open environment rather than in a dark, narrowed tunnel merely saving an hour of the journey. The Channel Tunnel represents a technical achievement to be sure, but it is also a financial morass.
7. Never admit a project is a failure
Recognizing the limit beyond which the project is going to be a total failure is a very rare quality in a project manager to be found. Being too much optimistic about a project when you have realized that it would be no more sensible to continue it. It’s a common practice that top management try their level best to not terminate the project because they have stake, lots of hopes from the project. This is just like peigon closing its eyes thinking cat will not eat it. Terminating such a project in time is difficult but still wise. Another blunder committed under the belief that throwing more money at a project will somehow “buy” success. Although this response should be taken only after considerable thought has gone into it. Unless a project is truly suffering from a dearth of funding, increasing its budget will usually not bring the kinds of returns hoped for. The money will get spent, of course. But will it be beneficial for the company? The answer to this question is much more difficult to assess, but generally our experience has been that the extra money given to a troubled project does not necessarily correspond with an improved likelihood of success.
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