Global Project Strategy Workshops




Learning From Project Successes and Failures

Every one of our projects passes hurdles before it is approved.  And during that approval process few project sponsors or project managers express the possibility that the project could fail. Most express confidence that the Critical Success Factors (CSFs) will be met.

Yet, we all know that too many projects fail. According to the latest CHAOS report 35 percent prove disappointing and another 25 percent fail altogether.

So, if we select only projects capable of passing the hurdle, if we express confidence that the CSFs will be met, and if we use appropriate methodologies, why do we still have so many failures?

Is it because we don’t apply what we know as effectively as we should?  Yes, that may be true, but a realistic assessment of our recent record suggests that we also need to look elsewhere for the root cause of failure.

Barry Shore has been studying project failure for over three decades and has developed a workshop that looks behind the traditional approaches that are now used to ensure success and shows how the systematic biases that are a natural part of the project management life cycle can account for many of our failures. It is an approach based on his recent article “Systematic Biases and Culture in Project Failures” Published in the December 2008 issue of the Project Management Journal, “  

In the traditional approach we focus on what “should be done.” Critical Success Factors are perfect examples of this approach. Shore’s approach, however, focuses on “what is done”. But he goes one step further.  Case studies of project failures are used to illustrate how these systematic biases actually have led to failure. It is an approach that uncovers how organizations failed to achieve user involvement, how they lost sight of business objectives, and why communication channels closed down.  It is an approach that helps us to understand these vulnerabilities so that we become better equipped to minimize or avoid them.
The course is taught in three sessions with the option to increase the length of the length of the course to an additional session that is used as a workshop during which participants address failures, explore the reasons for the failures, and create turnaround documents. Each session is three hours long and they can be scheduled on consecutive days or spread over four weeks.

Learning Objectives

In this workshop you will learn

•    How traditional Project Management methods overlook the source of many problems
•    Which systematic biases are common in Project Management
•    How these biases have derailed projects across many industries
•    Early detection of these biases
•    Why these biases, once discovered, are often ignored
•    How to recover once they are discovered
•    Designing project structures to minimize these biases

Session I

 Learning from Project Failures

•    Introduction
•    Case Study: Golden Horseshoe Police A and B
•    What Went Wrong?
•    Why did the Problem Persist for So Long?
•    Case Study: Fiat/Chrysler
•    Can success be repeated?

Session II

Emotional Intelligence and Systematic Biases

•    Case Study :  Denver Baggage Handling
•    Why Do Projects Take on a Life all of their Own?
•    Case Study:  Merck’s Vioxx
•    When is it Time to Pull the Plug?
•    Case Study: Mount Everest 1996
•    When is it Time for a Project Turnaround?
•    Case Study: Hollywood Flops
•    When Hubris, Ego and Careers Get in the Way of Common Sense

Session III  

Learning from Project Successes

•    Case Study: Boeing 777
•    Creating a Structure That Minimizes Systematic Biases
•    Case Study: Google
•    Creating a Culture the Minimizes Systematic Biases
•    Fault trees. Creating Optimistic and Pessimistic scenarios
•    Early Warning Signs that a Project is Headed for Trouble
•    How Merck Solved the Problem.
•    Getting A troubled Project Back on Track
•    Summary and Conclusions

It has been suggested that Project Management is nothing more than common sense applied to complex tasks.  If there is any truth to this, and if project failures continue to be high, we need to find out what gets in the way of applying common sense.  Learning about systematic biases, how to recognize them when they occur and how to prevent them from derailing a project is an important part of this process.