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How to Overhaul a Culture of Project Malpractice

Expectations around project success are historically low across organizations. Poor results in the past have led many companies to believe that only a few projects will pan out, and executives often respond by thinking less is more and trying many different projects to see what sticks.

But instead of going all-in on creating more projects, organizations would be better served looking internally at what’s caused all those failures and contributed to such a cynical mindset — and it all starts with leadership.

When leaders put the support and insights in place to help project managers thrive, expectations and results tend to change for the better.

Establishing a Successful Project Management Culture

If your company exhibits a culture of project malpractice, there are a few strategies you can use to correct course.

Here’s where to start:

1. Build a stronger front-end process.

Successful project managementdoesn’t happen by accident. Every project needs a solid foundation, one built upon a “why” and a “what.” As in, “Why are we here, and what are we solving?”

One of the primary reasons why a project failsis that teams fail to answer those questions at the outset. Without clear foundations, project management teams look like monkeys sitting in front of typewriters tasked with writing “Hamlet.” They’re left with no direction and not set up for success.

That footloose, fancy-free approach leads to 70% of projects failing. Get out of that mindset by having a plan upfront and working from it. Craft a comprehensive project charter that leaves no stone unturned. Answer questions, present hypotheticals, and try to give your team every resource it needs right out of the gate.

Once you have parameters in place, your team will have the support it needs to improvise based on the project’s best interest.

2. Remain flexible during the project lifecycle.

Realties can change at a moment’s notice and send a project off the original course toward the future state.

Ongoing governance to help project leads alter the course of a project is necessary. Check in with your project leadership to see how they’re doing and what they need. Are the deliverables starting to bloat in number? Is the team toeing the deadline or at the top of the budget?

This is the part of the project where a sprint mindset allows your team to test and tweak outcomes in real time. While an iterative process is not ideal for every type of project, if you have the capability built in to take this on, do so.

Keep calm, look at the foundation, and be flexible about what can be done within the charter or your available resources. A project that stays on schedule but isn’t successful isn’t as valuable as one that’s successful despite being late to market and over budget.

3. Get out in front of bad news.

No one wants to hear that those best-laid plans have gone awry, least of all the leadership team. But it’s become more critical than ever to instill confidence in project managers to communicate bad news — whatever it may be. The earlier, the better. If your culture reinforces silence, bad news will fester.

When it comes to organizational initiatives, the consequences of project failure can cost a fortune. If that’s not bad enough, think about the other risks you run — competitors catching up to you, organizational shakeup, critical gaps being exposed, and more can materialize from failed projects.

Reassure project managers that they should come to stakeholders with the changing realities of the project as soon as possible.

Culture has a way of driving project performance. It sets the tone for the process at hand. It influences how leads and their teams plan, execute, and monitor each new initiative. Don’t let a culture of project malpractice be the reason why projects fail.

Instead, look at it as an opportunity to improve how your company approaches project management for years to come.

If you’d like to learn more about the project management process or hear about one of our PM solutions, let us know. We’d be happy to discuss your business and find an option perfectly suited to your needs.

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