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Kelley Hunsberger, editor, PMI.org: August 2008 Archives

Why Projects Fail

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I was doing a little research for this post and like every good writer these days I started with Google. I typed in "why projects fail" and came up with 16,700 entries. The first few pages were dominated with entries like "Top 10 Reasons Projects Fail" and "Why Projects Fail: Part 1." So what were some of the answers? Some articles blamed a lack of user involvement. Others said projects were started for the wrong reasons.

There was nothing related, however, to organizational fit or to measuring intangible benefits as part of your ROI. It made me wonder: Will the results of the Researching the Value of Project Management study change the way the profession thinks about project failure? Will things like the makeup of the organization--and how project management plays into that--become more important to a project's failure or success? And, how can organizations use the results to improve the way they achieve project results?

All good questions, right? And I hope to get the chance to ask the study's principal researchers, Janice Thomas, Ph.D., and Mark Mullaly, PMP, at PMI's North American Congress 2008 in Denver, Colorado, USA. It's coming up in October, and I hear they will be giving a special presentation on the research.

Coming Soon ...

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Want proof that project management does add value to organizations? Check out a short video on Researching the Value of Project Management featuring fresh insights on both the tangible and intangible benefits of project management from principal investigators Janice Thomas, Ph.D., and Mark Mullaly, PMP, and some of the study's contributing researchers, including Terence J. Cooke-Davies, Ph.D.

The Value of Standards

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Did you know that this month PMI is celebrating 25 years of standards creation? Tuesday, I interviewed Debbie O'Bray for an upcoming PMI.org story I am writing on PMI standards. She has been involved in standards development for quite some time and is currently a member of the Standards Member Advisory Group.

The interview got me thinking about the added value of standards. For some project professionals, they serve as a constant companion while for others these standards are guidelines or references project professionals can turn to with questions. But for everyone, the standards help create a common language to help communicate about everything from project scope to risk. And that common language is a key intangible benefit revealed in the Researching the Value of Project Management study.

In the presentation of the study's preliminary results in Warsaw, Poland, principal investigator Janice Thomas, Ph.D., said:

"The good news is that most organizations demonstrate intangible value and its significant intangible value around decision-making, around strategy, around effective work cultures, around alignment of approach, around terminology ..."

For my story, I also interviewed team members of different standard development teams. They devote time--sometimes years--to helping develop PMI's library of standards.

Obviously they see the value of standards. And this leads me to one conclusion: The value of standards and the value of project management go hand in hand.

For the Project Manager

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We've talked a lot about what the Researching the Value of Project Management study means for executives, but what does it actually mean for the in-the-trenches project manager? How do they benefit?

First of all it re-emphasizes the importance of the work they do.

But listening to interviews with principal investigators Mark Mullaly, PMP, and Janice Thomas, Ph.D., I see it goes beyond that. It helps project managers in a few key ways, including:

1. Understanding what support they need in the organization to be the most effective

2. Implementing the most effective project management practices in their organizations

3. Understanding how project management ties to the strategic direction of their organizations

But it doesn't end there. Once the full report is available, the library of 65 case studies can be used by project managers for lessons learned. It will also help the next generation of project leaders. Several of the academicians I spoke with during and after PMI's Research Conference have said they will be able to take the study and use it in their classrooms. In fact, some of them are already doing precisely that.

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