Adrian Dooley, director at APMG, was formerly a construction project manager, before he began helping others do their projects better. He was also one of the Conference: Zero presenters. He was reflecting on APM’s vision for a world where all projects are successful and his main point was that culture change is necessary to achieve this.
The same mistakes again
For several years, 730 people worked at the Pantheon in Rome. The pillars were built elsewhere and brought to Rome. Adrian stated that the pillars were 10 feet shorter than needed when they arrived. The Romans quickly reworked the portico to make it more functional. This example was used to show that projects can go wrong for a long time. He also shared a list with the IPMA conference in 1972 of reasons why projects fail.
Adrian Dooley’s list for reasons projects fail, illustrated by the Pantheon of Rome. “These are obvious things we need to fix,” he stated. These are obvious things that we need to fix. I don’t believe much has changed since Pantheon times. It’s human nature.”
He shared extracts from post-implementation evaluations from a major UK utility company to show simple issues that aren’t being addressed. These were some of the lessons learned:
Communication is lacking to the business. Clear communication plans should be created to ensure that business stakeholders receive regular updates.
User requirements are not documented or tracked. More user involvement could have prevented the need for late changes.
Reluctance of operational staff to cooperate in project team: stakeholders need to be recognized earlier to ensure business buy-in.
It’s not rocket science, but it’s not rocket science.
It’s why diets don’t work.
Adrian stated that even though people working on projects have taken courses and completed qualifications, they still make the same mistakes and nothing changes. There are many fad diets promising weight loss with grapefruits, nuts, fish, chocolate cake, or other sweets. The reality is that you must eat less and exercise more if you want your weight to drop. Although it sounds easy, it is not because our bodies are pre-programmed for a certain amount of calories. It can also be socially and genetically difficult to refuse food we don’t need.
Adrian explained that there are many social reasons to change how we do projects. We also have our own set of latest crazes like Agile, the introduction of planning software in mid-80’s, a rush for qualifications in mid-90’s and Agile.
Adrian stated, “These are the quick and ineffective diets for project management.” They won’t work alone, but he didn’t mean that they wouldn’t work. Successful projects will not be achieved by certifying all project managers with PRINCE2(r). Nor will introducing Agile. It is not easy to bring everything together to make a lifestyle change.
Don’t be discouraged by project failures
Adrian stated, “It’s futile to pontificate about the reasons why projects fail.” We need to focus on what makes them successful. Adrian spoke a lot about project failure, and this was only at the very end. Buckminster Fuller’s quote was shared by Adrian: “You can’t change the existing reality.” You can change something by creating a new model that renders the existing model obsolete.
Adrian suggested that we need a new model that involves major cultural change. He stated that this meant changing the public’s perception of project management, moving away from The Apprentice, where everyone is a manager and no one does it well, as well as moving to Chartered Status. “We are meant to be the kind people who can achieve this type of cultural change and change.