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Questions about projects…

I have procrastinated for months and have finally decided to start this blog. I will spend the next few months (probably years) blogging about change and IT projects (what is an IT project anyway?).

I am starting with questions about projects. This may seem unusual as most people want answers and not questions. I don’t have all the answers and in many cases there are no right or wrong generic answers as this topic is very contextual. I am hoping that the blogo- and twitter-spheres will generate fruitful discussions.

The following questions are categorised under General, Before, During and After a project.

General

  • What is an IT project?
  • Do IT projects have a better or worse failure rate than non IT ones (or ones that do not involve any IT)?
  • What is the human psychology around projects?
  • Why do smart, high achieving leaders initiate a large number of projects that cannot possibly be worked on and/or delivered simultaneously within their organisations?
  • Why do we train project managers and very few others (e.g. sponsors and business leaders)?

Before

  • Why do people start projects without knowing what they want to achieve?
  • Why are most projects initiated with little thought about how to realise the desired business benefits?
  • Why are projects initiated and funding provided when organisational readiness is not assessed?
  • Why do people create big projects when they know that most of them fail?

During

  • Why do people at multiple levels, especially sponsors and project managers cover up the reality of the project status as well as problems/ issues/ risks that will in time be exposed?
  • Why do so few project board members genuinely engage in ensuring the project is being well run and will be successful?
  • Why do people rush the initiation phase of projects when we know that most problems can be traced back to this phase?
  • Why are so few sponsors willing to stop a project when the business case is no longer justified?

After

  • Why do so few organisations/sponsors measure the benefits they were expecting to deliver?
  • Why do so few organisations genuinely learn from the mistakes they make and build this into future projects?

I will attempt to answer these and other questions in the coming months and years, I will post links to relevant sites, people, papers and articles. All constructive feedback welcome.

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Categories: Projects and change
  1. Josephine
    08/07/2010 at 9:16 am

    Excellent questions… Also, why do organisations that do require a business case before starting a project, insist on quantitative cost benefit analysis when a lot of benefits are qualitative, and in fact some benefits can’t actually be measured in pounds and pence.

  2. 08/07/2010 at 10:15 am

    Great questions, Andrew. Should make for an interesting debate about why projects actually exist. Of course, there isn’t actually anything called an IT project, just a business project: http://marksamuels.co.uk/2010/07/why-there-should-be-no-such-thing-as-an-it-project/

  3. 08/07/2010 at 3:01 pm

    Good questions Andrew. I may have a mentioned a view that I read a while back that in business good questions are better than good answers. The questions apply to most businesses, but it is a tendency of even very intelligent people to assume that an answer right for a specific business equally applies to all businesse.

    Having said that,I will prove the truth of my assertion by example.

    It seems that at least part of the answer to many of the mid – late questions, is that the culture of the place probably does not encourage learning based behaviours, but blame oriented, so minimal involvement until the project is know to be succesful is a good strategy, and doing the minimum necessary if you have to be involved. And closing down the project at the end as soon as possible.

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