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Why projects fail and how to avoid it

In the grand scheme of things—in a world where projects have thousands of moving pieces that need to be tracked, managed, and actioned—it’s no surprise that many organizations feel overwhelmed. Especially when millions of dollars and labor-hours are involved.

The question becomes, how can operations mitigate risk against project creep, project scope, the management of people, and more? When the solution has the potential of being Herculean in nature—yet another project to manage—the process of doing so becomes a lot less desirable. Fortunately, it’s more than just process, it’s also about people.

I can say from my experience in operational management that the people behind the project mean just as much as the operational process itself. The secret to a successful project is to create a symbiotic relationship with your team and the underlying processes so that everything runs in perfect synchronicity—easier said than done.

If I told you the secret to avoiding project failure was “corporate values,” I’m sure you would balk and conjure up images of “vision statements” and various other fluffy corporate buzzwords that are usually developed at a high level and then relegated to a locked filing cabinet.

For me, the concept of corporate values is not rhetorical: they are the foundation on which the company is built, enabling people to do their jobs and do them well. The accompanying sense of empowerment leads to better communications, better organizational skills, and a better understanding of business process. But this is only 50 percent of the battle for operational success. Implementing a people-oriented foundation that fosters the necessary technical skills, thought leadership, and open and honest communication, will only get you halfway there.

Process, arguably the most difficult part, will get you the other 50 percent. Process has its own ties to real corporate values. When implementing business process, many companies fail by discounting the human factor. After all, people are people—not emotionless robots. Processes must be fluid, streamlined, and work in conjunction with the human condition. They must enable rational decision making and provide the ability to be flexible in addressing project complexities.

As an enterprise that works with a multitude of companies from around the world, we understand that speaking the same language is paramount to success. To deliver superior products and services, an operational and project management style should be one that can be understood and adopted by both the provider and the customer. By ensuring this, projects can flow seamlessly from company to company, person to person, without interruption. When these processes have the same foundation—corporate vales—it can make all the difference.

Overall, projects either succeed or fail due to one reason and one reason only: people. Empower the people, instill in them the best values, value them for their personal expertise, and implement value-based processes and tools—the rest will take care of itself.

The Power of Precision