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Is Your Organization a “Champion” or “Underperformer”?

“Is Your Organization a ‘Champion’ or ‘Under-Performer’? on Strategy Execution, October 15, 2018.

How culture impacts project performance

Alan Zucker has over 25 years of experience working in Fortune 100 companies leading projects and large organizations. He has delivered thousands of successful projects and managed major strategic initiatives. Zucker is also a Strategy Execution course instructor, with areas of expertise in project management, Agile transformation, and leadership.

The following is an excerpt from Zucker’s Project Management Essentials blog:

Project management has a consistent and unimpressive performance record. The Standish Group’s on-going survey of project performance finds the percentage of projects that were deemed “successful” has hovered in the 25% – 30% range since 1994. Successful projects are defined as those meeting expectations of time, cost, and scope.

In my article, “Successful Projects: What We Really Know,” I highlight factors that improve project outcomes, including:

  • Smaller is Better. Small projects are 10-times more likely to be successful than large projects; and small organizations have better outcomes than large ones;
  • People Matter. Project teams with high emotional intelligence are 2½-times more likely to be successful. Projects with highly engaged users and executive stakeholders have significantly better outcomes; and
  • Go Agile.  Agile projects are 3-times more likely to succeed than Waterfall projects.

Another critical factor to project success is organizational culture. The Project Management Institute (PMI)®’s 2017 Pulse of the Profession survey documented the differences between “champion” and “underperforming” organizations.  In champion organizations 80% or more of the projects are delivered on-time, on-schedule, and meet expectations.  Underperforming organizations have fewer than 60% of their projects meeting these objectives.

The difference between these two organizations is vast. Champion organizations are roughly 3-times better.

Average percentage of projects… Champion Underperformer
Completed on time 88% 24%
Completed on budget 90% 25%
Meeting business intent 92% 33%
Deemed failure 6% 24%

The importance of an organization’s culture and its impact on project performance is under-appreciated. In the 2016 PMI®Pulse of the Profession, slightly more than half (55%) of the respondents said that their organization fully understands the value of project management.  Only 18% of respondents stated that their organizations had a high-level of project management maturity.

In my career, I have been fortunate to work in several organizations that demonstrated a high-performing project culture. These experiences spanned industries and organizational sizes and types.

Even in organizations where there was a high-performing project culture, I observed differing levels of maturity and performance across different units.

Project culture cannot be easily measured and described in tangible terms.  There is no checklist or specific methodology that creates a high-performing culture.  The key ingredients are the people working on the team and their management’s support.

The rest of Alan Zucker’s blog post discusses his first-hand project management experiences in Federal Government, Telecommunications, and Financial Services. To read the full article, originally posted on Project Management Essentials, click here.