Project Management Often Below Par, Reveals National Survey
January 26, 2006
Less than half (47%) of their organization's projects always/often meet their goals, said respondents to a nationwide survey, and only one-third (33)% are always/often completed on time and on budget.
The survey was conducted in September 2005 by Quality Progress magazine and the consulting firms of Guttman Development Strategies and Kepner-Tregoe. A total of 1,905 responses were received from managers and individual contributors in a cross-section of industries. Questions aimed to discover how projects are generally managed in organizations; how well individual projects are led, planned, and executed; and what causes projects to veer off track.
Survey respondents point to a number of factors that contribute to project underperformance:
- Goals: Nearly 46% of respondents said their project teams aren't often given clear, attainable goals.
- Resources: Nearly 69% of respondents said project teams aren't usually given enough resources to accomplish their goals.
- People: Nearly 55% of respondents said the right people aren't usually selected to lead and/or serve on project teams.
- Project Management Training: 80% of respondents said employees don't often receive training in project management methodology before serving on a project team.
- Time: Over 84% of respondents said that, when serving on a project team, employees aren't often relieved of some of their routine responsibilities.
- Common Approach: 62% of respondents said that it isn't customary for project teams throughout the organization follow a standard methodology to define, plan, and implement projects.
While responses indicate that many projects are in trouble, there is some good news. Nearly 70% of respondents said their organization's projects are always or often aligned with its strategy; nearly two-thirds said that projects are usually viewed as ways to contribute to quality and productivity improvements; 82% of those who served on a project team said their project was completed, and, of these, 89% said goals were met. But few rated their overall project performance as excellent and, more disturbingly, a significant number reported that performance was mediocre, at best.
"Given the survey results,” said Andrew Longman, partner and vice president, marketing for Kepner-Tregoe, Inc., "it's not surprising that less than half of respondents said that their organization’s financial performance was in the top third of its industry." Longman, co-author of The Rational Project Manager: A Thinking Team’s Guide to Getting Work Done (John Wiley & Sons, 2005), added, "One of the most troublesome findings is the fact that so few teams use a common process. Without one, teams have to continually retreat to the dreaded question: How should we get started? And it’s tough to pull apart an issue, gather and assess information, and explore options, especially in a team setting."
Howard Guttman, principal of Guttman Development Strategies, Inc. and an expert on creating high-performance teams, is particularly troubled, but not surprised, by the fact that so many (70%) of respondents felt that senior managers are not always the best role models for project excellence. "The behavior of senior executives has a multiplier effect down through the organization," notes Guttman. "If senior executives aren't aligned and clear on goals, roles, and accountabilities, how can others be?"
Guttman is also not surprised at the number of respondents who indicated that internal conflict was a problem for their project team: 51% indicated that their team dealt with conflict in a healthy, open manner, but the remaining 49% said conflicts were suppressed on their team. Guttman believes that, "The inability to transform conflict into healthy confrontation is a key reason why projects fail to deliver against their objectives."
An article detailing survey findings will appear in the February 2006 issue of Quality Progress.
Quality Progress is the magazine of the American Society for Quality (ASQ). Guttman Development Strategies, Inc. (www.guttmandev.com) is a Mt. Arlington, NJ-based management consulting firm specializing in building high-performance teams, executive coaching, strategic and operational alignment, and management training. Kepner-Tregoe, Inc. (www.kepner-tregoe.com) is a Princeton, NJ consulting and human resource development firm known for applying its problem-solving, decision-making, and project management processes to resolve business issues.
Howard Guttman and Andrew Longman are available for interviews on the survey results and on improving project management in organizations.