Why Do Plans Fail

No matter how hard we try, planning is not perfect, and sometimes plans fail (Figure 11-11). Typical reasons why plans fail include:

• Corporate goals are not understood at the lower organizational levels.

• Plans encompass too much in too little time.

• Financial estimates were poor.

• Plans were based on insufficient data.

• No attempt was made to systematize the planning process.

• Planning was performed by a planning group.

• No one knows the ultimate objective.

• No one knows the staffing requirements.

• No one knows the major milestone dates, including written reports.

• Project estimates are best guesses, and are not based on standards or history.

• Not enough time was given for proper estimating.

• No one bothered to see if there would be personnel available with the necessary skills.

• People are not working toward the same specifications.

• People are consistently shuffled in and out of the project with little regard for schedule.

Figure 11-11. Why always on my project?

Why do these situations occur, and who should be blamed? If corporate goals are not understood, it is because corporate executives were negligent in providing the necessary strategic information and feedback. If a plan fails because of extreme optimism, then the responsibility lies with both the project and line managers for not assessing risk. Project managers should ask the line managers if the estimates are optimistic or pessimistic, and expect an honest answer. Erroneous financial estimates are the responsibility of the line manager. If the project fails because of a poor definition of the requirements, then the project manager is totally at fault.

Project managers must be willing to accept failure. Sometimes, a situation occurs that can lead to failure, and the problem rests with either upper-level management or some other group. As an example, consider the major utility company with a planning group that prepares budgets (with the help of functional groups) and selects projects to be completed within a given time period. A project manager on one such project discovered that the project should have started ''last month" in order to meet the completion date. In cases like this, project managers will not become dedicated to the projects unless they are active members during the planning and know what assumptions and constraints were considered in development of the plan.

Sometimes, the project manager is part of the planning group and as part of a feasibility study is asked to prepare, with the assistance of functional managers, a schedule and cost summary for a project that will occur three years downstream, if it is approved at all. Suppose that three years downstream the project is approved. How does the project manager get functional managers to accept the schedule and cost summary that they themselves prepared three years before? It cannot be done, because technology may have changed, people may be working higher or lower on the learning curve, and salary and raw material escalation factors are inaccurate.

Sometimes project plans fail because simple details are forgotten or overlooked. Examples of this might be:

• Neglecting to tell a line manager early enough that the prototype is not ready and that rescheduling is necessary.

• Neglecting to see if the line manager can still provide additional employees for the next two weeks because it was possible to do so six months ago.

Sometimes plans fail because the project manager "bites off more than he can chew," and then something happens, such as his becoming ill. Even if the project manager is effective at doing a lot of the work, overburdening is unnecessary. Many projects have failed because the project manager was the only one who knew what was going on and then got sick.

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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