The Many Faces Of Failure

Previously we stated that success might be a cube rather than a point. If we stay within the cube but miss the point, is that a failure? Probably not! The true definition of failure is when the final results are not what were expected, even though the original expectations may or may not have been reasonable. Sometimes customers and even internal executives set performance targets that are totally unrealistic in hopes of achieving 80-90 percent. For simplicity's sake, let us define failure as unmet expectations.

With unmeetable expectations, failure is virtually assured since we have defined failure as unmet expectations. This is called a planning failure and is the difference between what was planned and what was, in fact, achieved. The second component of failure is poor performance or actual failure. This is the difference between what was achievable and what was actually accomplished.

Perceived failure is the net sum of actual failure and planning failure. Figures 2-15 and 2-16 illustrate the components of perceived failure. In Figure 2-15, project management has planned a level of accomplishment (C) lower than what is achievable given project circumstances and resources (D). This is a classic underplanning situation. Actual accomplishment (B), however, was less than planned.

A slightly different case is illustrated in Figure 2-16. Here, we have planned to accomplish more than is achievable. Planning failure is again assured even if no actual failure occurs. In both of these situations (overplanning and underplanning), the actual failure is the same, but the perceived failure can vary considerably.

Today, most project management practitioners focus on the planning failure term. If this term can be compressed or even eliminated, then the magnitude of the actual failure, should it occur, would be diminished. A good project management methodology helps to reduce this term. We now believe that the existence of this term is largely due to the project manager's inability to perform effective risk management. In the 1980s, we believed that the failure of a project was largely a quantitative failure due to:

Project Management Made Easy

Project Management Made Easy

What you need to know about… Project Management Made Easy! Project management consists of more than just a large building project and can encompass small projects as well. No matter what the size of your project, you need to have some sort of project management. How you manage your project has everything to do with its outcome.

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