• Potential Reasons – Why Do Project Fail and How Project Managers Can Prevent?

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    The principle aim of this article is to identify and explore multiple dimensions of project failures during the entire life of project execution. Many projects fail, especially IT projects. The only way that companies can get better at performing projects is by learning from projects they have carried out. There are small things which can decide fate of project. These all in project management practice and research, has been to see it as a threat and as something that should, if possible, be neutralized, reduced and followed.

    Introduction

    In a perfect world every project would be “on time and within budget.” But reality (especially the proven statistics) tells a very different story. It’s not uncommon for projects to fail. Even if the budget and schedule are met, one must ask –

    Question – “Did the project deliver the results and quality we expected?”

    Answer to this question could be different in different perspective. There is no single method or organizational structure that can be used to manage projects to success. Project failure can happen in any organization and to any project.

    There are many reasons why projects (both simple and complex) fail; the number of reasons can be infinite and can fit into different phase of SDLC (Software Development Life Cycle), initiation through go live. Sometimes it’s out of the control of a project manager and/or the team members. Sometimes failure is controllable. Failed projects and people involved with the failure have some things in common. I have tried to draft few critical and most basic reasons based on my experience for project failure and may differ project to project.

    From outside view, it could be that all reason will roll up to project manager’s responsibility and accountability however from my perspective it should be collective responsibility.

    Here are the some of the common reasons why project fails – based on my experience.

    1. Incompetent Project Manager

    First possible cause of project failure is the project manager. A project manager who helps steer the project in a timely fashion and provides sound, inspiring leadership can go a long way toward bringing about a successful project. Reasons like “an incompetent project manager” “project manager unwilling to make decisions,” “project problems ignored”, “poor management by the project leader,” “loss of control by the project manager,” and “the failure of the project manager to delegate”, “working as only as coordinator” are most important reason given for project failure.

    2. Less Involvement of Project Managers

    This is always a topic of debate for project managers: Should they just focus on pure project management activities such as reporting, cost and issue tracking, or should they also dive into ground-level review and design? There is no correct answer. Even the biggest project depends on the success of the smallest components. Every detail contains a seed that can mean the difference between success and failure. On relatively inexperienced teams, project managers must be involved in the details for key activities. This will help them have better control of the effort as well as provide true status of the project to stakeholders.

    3. Unavailability to Skilled Resources

    Every project has some resource estimations before starting of the project and even every vendor submits key personnel details and profile as part of bidding process to acquire project. However picture is always opposite once project is awarded. Initial resource estimations and loading sheet handed over to project managers as part of sales hand over process but I have seen that project managers always struggle for right skilled resources hence it is necessary that leadership team should understand criticality and provide planned/skilled resources on time to avoid project delay or failure.

    4. Lack of Proper Planning

    Project managers should have clear projects outcomes visibility and should involve himself./herself right from sales hand over as this phase is critical for project success. If you don’t have a clear focus at the earliest stage of the process/project, you are making things harder on yourself. This would lead to inappropriate estimations and half cooked planning.

    5. Lack of Management Support/Leadership Alignment

    It is important to ensure that the senior management remains fully engaged throughout the project life cycle. The involvement e.g. through project update sessions imply that they are willing to take appropriate actions to address issues raised by the project team, mitigate the project risks, provide leadership, thus contributing to the project success.

    6. Missing Communication

    Communication plan plays very substantial role in project success or failure. Plan should contain stakeholder details I.e name, role, contact no. and email, project team details, escalation matrix and other dependent groups. Information distribution details (stakeholder, information detail, distribution methods, format and frequency) should be clearly defined in plan. To save your project from failure, project manager need to establish a clear communication channel.

    Effective communication within any organization is important to keep all your team members on the same page, avoid confusions and keep them motivated. By communicating with your team, project managers can develop an environment of trust, proactively kill conflicts, which would bring the best out of your team and eventually lead to a successful delivery of the project.

    7. Ignoring Change Management Process

    Take a second before your project starts to undergo significant changes, or even before you look for a technology solution. It’s critical to define your change management process steps. A firm understanding of change management principles will serve as a strong backbone for any change management plan. Change is inevitable, irrespective of the size of your project. Whether good or bad, it must be managed well to ensure the project continues without disruption. Every project must have a change control process, and every change request, however small, must go through it. The change’s impact should be documented, approved and presented to key stakeholders so that everyone understands its effect on quality, cost and schedule. The focal point of any leader tasked with change must be to align their team with the vision. Communication is a crucial component in ensuring every team member is on the same page.

    8. No Risk Management Process

    Many projects fail because there is no risk management process as an integral part of the project management process. I am not surprised because I have been on many projects where the risk log is created at the start of the project and then quietly parked, never to be seen again. Then guess what – a perfectly predictable situation arises which no one knows how to react to.

    It was in the risk log but no risk response was created so the predictable outcome is a less than optimal project. My own feeling based on my experience is that you ignore risk management in a project at your risk.

    9. Inadequate Quality Assurance

    Now this is where the technicality comes in. Software projects often fail when no quality assurance activities are planned and no systematic activities are performed to evaluate the quality of development process or ultimate deliverables. This is because managers often fail to project appropriate reviews tests or checkpoints where quality can be verified. Code review is part of this (as defined in #20).

    10. Missing Project Management Tools/Framework

    Successful projects are based on a methodology or framework that includes project management tools. Right approach can help project managers to stay on top of the project and by using some reliable management tools; project managers can enhance the team’s productivity, can increase accuracy and save time by automating activities like task tracking and managing dependencies.

    A great number of unsuccessful project results from missing methodology and framework, which leads to inaccuracy and wasted time. There are numerous project management frameworks and methodologies (like Agile, Iterative) and they can support efficient delivery.

    11. Company/Project Culture

    Company or project culture should not be supported with political environment. It should support competency, skill, professionalism and transparency. If it isn’t, team members will not be motivated to do their best. Basically, everyone involved must be participated in their part of the project to successfully complete it. Any actions which project managers take to move project execution from the political arena into an objective and analytical one will improve the project’s success. This involves managing and retaining the most highly skilled and productive people. Knowledge is money. It is job of project managers to manage and motivate so that project efforts will experience a zone of optimal performance throughout its life.

    12. Inappropriate Prioritization

    While some work best on a small number of requirements, others are better suited to very complex projects with many decision-makers. But regardless of when it is done, before a requirement can be prioritized, project managers must consider why requirement is most important from a business standpoint and what would be the impact of this on overall system whether new requirement would add value to overall system or it will be overhead. Project managers should lead prioritization exercise along with all relevant stakeholders. There are a number of possible business considerations, including value, cost, risk, and improve customer experience, stakeholder agreement and urgency variables.

    13. Inaccurate Stakeholder Analysis

    Stakeholder Analysis is the first step and an important process that successful project managers use to win support from others. Managing stakeholders helps them to ensure that their projects succeed where others might fail. There are three steps to follow in Stakeholder Analysis. First, identify who your stakeholders are. Next, work out their power, influence and interest, so that you know who you should focus on. Finally, develop a good understanding of the most important stakeholders based on Power/Interest grid, so that you know how they are likely to respond, and how you can win their support which can lead project success.

    14. Use of Unfamiliar Tools

    Tools are definitely needed for project execution and success but unfamiliar tools may lead to chances of failure as well. Sometimes, it can cause many severe problems during project life cycle as the team has to deal with the learning curve of new tools along with usual project tasks and duties. Project managers should ensure that tools are not enforced on project team members, just to utilize for fulfillment of audit compliance unless tools adding some productivity and save some efforts.

    15. Change – Always saying “Yes’ to the Customer

    Many behaviors can cause a project to fail, but accepting whatever the client says is sure to spell project doom. Initially, a stakeholder might appreciate your flexibility – but that will be overshadowed later by the impact of possible schedule slippage and unmet objectives.. Change is a major cause of project failure. Project specifications can be changed for several reasons: initial planning was not complete or thorough; Senior-level management changed the scope of the work; the client (if not upper-level management) changed the scope of the work; this isn’t to say that you should always tell customers “no.” If you do that, they’ll feel their concerns are not being addressed. Before you commit to something, perform due diligence and analyze the pros and cons of your decision.

    16. Bonding between Project Team Members

    It is the prime responsibility of project managers to unite the team members to achieve a common goal. The stages a team generally goes through are: forming, storming, norming, performing and adjourning. As a project manager, a good understanding of these stages would help in guiding a team from infancy to maturity which creates needed bonding.

    Things can easily go from good to bad very quickly if there is no unity between your team members. Consider a scenario in which all team members are moving in different directions. Could you expect a positive result to come out of this situation? There could be many reasons from personality differences to conflicting interests. All of them contribute towards taking you one step closer to project failure.

    17. Unrealistic Expectations

    At the beginning of a project, it’s important to set realistic expectations for every member or stakeholders who are a part of the project. If the project kicks off without setting goals for individual team members, they are most likely to lose clarity and focus somewhere in the middle. Project managers must have one on one session with individual team members and help them understand their role in the project. If goals are set before the project is in full swing, the members would have a roadmap to follow that prevents them from derailing the project.

    18. Talking Through Problems

    Condensing bad news internally for long enough will only seed the explosion later on. It’s is fine to do for a limited period, but you will need to take some time to pull it out, examine it, feel it, and study it so you can find a way to re-channel it, or transmute it into another kind of energy. Quite often we face the dilemma of whether or not to deliver bad news to stakeholders. And too often we forget this truth: Clients have a vested interest in the success of the project. They have every right to know any development impacting the outcome of the initiative. You will end up having this heavy thing on your chest that will never move. You will never understand what it is about. The problem is that we believe that sharing problems will make us weak, and that stakeholders will start to judge us for our short-comings. Maybe they do. But stakeholders having higher interest who genuinely care about project and you very well know these people, will come out and help. Sharing helps you feel less burdened, because you now have less things on your mind. This will also allow you more space to put new thoughts, planning things better.

    19. Guesstimates – Efforts

    A “guess estimate,” also referred to as a “gut feel,” is based on personal intuition and past experience. But even the most strongly held conviction could be faulty. An inaccurate estimate can leave a project team slogging day and night to meet a deadline. The project might finally be delivered on time-but with a huge effort overrun. If time is pressing, use Function Point technique, Function Points are units of measure for functional size as defined within the IFPUG Functional Size Measurement (FSM) Method and it is the major global functional sizing methodology. Project Manager is responsible for accurate and re-estimation post sales hand over. If efforts guesstimated or not correctly estimated with appropriate tool then it definitely impacts one of all three critical project parameters- Cost, Scope, schedule.

    20. Avoiding Code Reviews

    Assuming that testing will catch bugs or that defects are fixed faster when you know where code is breaking. You’ll only end up increasing the risk of schedule slippage as the inflow of defects rises during testing and the turnaround time for code fixes increases. Code review helps produce a stable, quality deliverable. Its focus is not only to catch code defects but also to look at critical dimensions that may not get caught during testing, such as code optimization and requirement coverage.

    21. Skipping Prototyping

    Defects can result from a misunderstanding of requirements and a misinterpretation of stated requirements. Even if requirements are well-documented, they must be validated for correct understanding. Only by a visual walkthrough can users spot the differences in what they expect and what’s being built. Feedback must be planned at various stages throughout a project to reduce risks. These feedback loops will help you spot gaps early and provide enough time for correction. A sketch, wireframe, mockup, and prototype are all unique ways to visually display the requirements of your project with varying levels of detail. Understanding that level of polished output each of these present will keep expectations aligned and communication clear between all the stakeholders.

  • What Is the Difference Between Morality and Ethics?

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    What is the question?

    Both ethics and morality assist is in answering the question: What should I do?

    We are faced with this question all the time. Too often we make important decisions without giving enough time or process to reaching the best answer. Why not? Often we simply don’t know how to make such decisions. Sometimes we ignore them and hope they will go away, sometimes we follow the advice of others, sometimes we just guess.

    If we wish to be responsible for our own future and our own decisions we should spend a little time thinking and trying to make a good decision, a better decision than simply choosing the easiest answer.

    So, ethics and morality assist us in answering the question: What should I do?

    Do they provide the same answer? No.

    Which is the better approach and why?

    What is the difference between morality and ethics?

    Many of us confuse ethics and morality, many people use them interchangeably. But they are very, very different, related but different. The difference is crucial when making important decisions, even deciding whether you are facing a moral dilemma or an ethical dilemma. Important when discussing such popular topics as religion, sexuality, good and bad, right or wrong. So, take a few minutes now to better understand the difference between morality and ethics.

    Please, don’t refer to the dictionary. Dictionaries attempt to capture popular usage and much of popular usage of ethics and morality is very blurred. Here I can show you how to use each word precisely, and make these words as sharp tools to cut through some pretty complicated ideas.

    Morality

    Morality is a set of rules or guidelines by which we behave. Simple? Yes, very simple but the implications are very important.

    Morals answer problems we face in life. Morals are written down; they’re defined answers to defined problems. Examples that come to mind are: Stealing is immoral. Adultery is immoral. Killing another person is immoral. Abortion is immoral. Homosexuality is immoral. Burning the Christian Bible is immoral.

    Now you must appreciate that someone must decide upon these rules or guidelines. In the case of the Bible’s Ten Commandments that were handed down from the Mount thousands of years ago, these rules were spoken and written by the Christian God and then possibly transcribed and interpreted by Moses. As a general rule, morality is determined by others and followed by people who share certain values.

    The Ten Commandments were a set of ten rules which defined the behaviour of a group of people many years ago. The rules were effective in that they devolved the Ten Commandments into practical laws and a social structure which defined a people. They provided stability and provided the basis for an ongoing identity and development.

    The fact that morality provides stability is a very important and powerful aspect of morality. When the environment changes, when the old leaders and mentors die, morality enables their values, their rules to continue. So people have stability. A change in leadership does not mean everyone must start again. People feel and are more secure when things are stable. Change and uncertainty are somewhat scary. Morality provides a basis for a comforting stability.

    “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife” is my recall of (part of) one of the Ten Commandments. Most people would agree that it is not good to try to seduce your neighbour’s wife (which may be the result if you desire her enough). Even today it would result in some pretty nasty outcomes if everyone went around seducing each other’s wife right, left and centre. It could damage the society substantially. So that is a pretty useful rule to apply within most societies then and today.

    In summary, morality is a set of common values that provide stability for societies and differentiate between societies.

    Ethics

    Ethics is an approach, a method of making decisions. Ethics is about deciding to the best of our ability, without fear or favour. It is about being aware of the many aspects of each issue and trying to include them into the decision making process. It is about being aware of the outcome of our decisions, good and bad.

    Ethics is about making a well-considered decision and having the moral courage to accept the responsibility of our decision.

    Ethics is more a way of approaching decisions, ethics is not a set of values but a way of developing values for a certain situation as it is understood.

    Do you see how it differs from morality? Morality is a set of values that are applied, ethics is a way to solve something at we understand it. Ethics can develop morals and as the situation changes ethics can evolve morals.

    Let us just return to ethics for now and I shall say more about the strengths and weaknesses of each in more detail further on.

    Ethics is a way of reaching an answer in any situation. The aim is to reach the best answer. But all problems are complicated. The more we learn about a problem, the more complicated it becomes.

    Let us take a simple example. Common morality states “Thou shall not kill another person.” A drug-crazed killer has shot a dozen students in a classroom and is systematically shooting more students, one every ten seconds. You are situated behind him ten meters away. You have a gun and a clear shot at him. Do you shoot and kill him?

    Morality says no.

    Ethics tells us we should consider the potential outcome of our decision, how it will affect others and how it affects the world we live in. Ethics tells us to make a decision based upon what we think is right for everything and everyone.

    My own take is:

    Don’t decide for your own benefit, decide for the benefit of others.
    Do the right thing, the nicest thing.
    Be aware of the consequences. In part they are our responsibility.

    Do we kill him? There is no perfect right or wrong answer here We each must make our own decision and live with the outcomes. If we have done so, then the decision was ethical.

    Based upon my understanding of the situation, I would shoot to kill because it is in the best interest of the remaining students. It may have a bad outcome for me, but I am less important than the students. I would judge more good would result from my killing him.

    This is making an ethical decision.

    However, maybe there is something I didn’t know. Maybe it was a movie being shot and I for whatever reason, was unaware that everyone was acting. Sounds pretty stupid, but such things happen.

    The Problems of Morality and Ethics

    Morality provides answers. Morality provides solutions. Morals are right, absolute and certain. We can be confident that if we decide based upon morality, it is a solution and correct based upon the morality. Morals are convenient and easy. Few questions are required, thinking is limited, and we follow the rules. This is a great strength and a weakness. Morality provides good answers to many day to day decisions.

    There are so many decisions we need to make each day, we cannot spend hours on each of them. This is where morality is strong. We can follow our morals with a fair degree of confidence because in the past they have provided a good outcome. Morals are convenient and easy.

    But things change. How do the Ten Commandments handle the internet? Genetic engineering? Pollution? Nuclear power? Global warming? The Ten Commandments do not have an answer for these questions because the questions did not exist or were not asked at that time.

    Clearly decision making must evolve to adapt to current circumstances. But morality is characterised by stability, by absolute rules. What about ethics? Ethics is the domain of changed circumstance. Ethics is fluid and adaptable.

    Ethics can show us how to evolve our morals, how to make decisions in new situations.

    Ethics is better for the tricky decisions, morality is more efficient for the regular problems we face day to day. But be aware, do not get complacent, morality does not question and we often need to understand and question the reasons behind even simple looking problems before making a decision. Take care using morality, ask yourself is the answer obvious or do I need to understand a little more?

    Let us use a simple example. The morality “Thou shall not kill another person” seems straightforward.

    Hitler was exterminating the Jews in 1939. Was it ethical to declare war on Germany? Is war moral? See above… which is right, correct or best?

    Take a more complex example within the context of war. Imagine aircraft pilots shooting civilians because they looked like so called dangerous insurgents. Such decisions were made ethically in their view, they were making a decision for the best interest of other parties at some risk to themselves. In hindsight they may have been wrong, but the decision can well be called ethical. It could equally be called moral because the pilots were following the rules.

    Morality is applying predetermined values (usually developed by others) and designed for different problems, different dilemmas at a different time and then not accepting the responsibility of that decision. “I did it because the rule said so.” This in my view is taking the easy option, abrogating responsibility in many cases.

    Ethics is applying your values to a problem now and making the best decision possible based upon the available information. Such decisions become your decision and you are responsible for the decision and outcome in part. Ethics is characterised by doubt, unanswered questions and knowing that we can only make our best decisions and that such decisions are not the best for everyone. Every decision has costs and costs are not shared equally. So ethics does not answer the question what is right or wrong, but what is possibly better or worse based upon what is known.

    Moral decisions provide certainty, an amount of righteousness. But of course because each society has different morality, each society will make differing moral decisions in some cases. Sometimes this is enough to generate major conflicts despite seemingly almost insignificant differences. The fact that religion is a major factor in conflict demonstrates this. The morality of each religion is different and absolute. Absolute differences are irreconcilable, and generate intolerance.

    Ethical decisions provide uncertainty and doubt. Even if societies have differing values, taking an ethical approach permits different solutions and an acceptance that perhaps my decision is not the best for all. This engenders an accepting culture, one which takes a more “live and let live” approach. Doubt is good in that is encourages tolerance.

    Ethicists are wracked with doubt. Moralists are absolute in their convictions. Find a smug politician and you have found a moral politician. Find a tormented politician and you have found a more ethical politician.

    I will close with another example of where today’s society has a moral value which is at odds with ethical decision making.

    Euthanasia. Under the same moral code that states we shall not kill, society today demands we maintain the life of aged damaged people who no longer have any desire to live. Our morality demands we keep their hearts beating, their lungs pumping, using all that modern medicine can offer. Ethics asks the question why we should maintain the life in this failing body propped up by technology. What is the good that comes from locking out the grim reaper a little longer? No one wishes to suffer and finally die ever so slowly, causing grief to their loved ones. Yet society forces this morality onto us all.

    I ask you the question who gains from this? Look deep into your heart and think for a moment, think ethically. I suspect that some people gain by saying “We did all we could to keep him alive.” This is a way of justifying an unethical decision. A way of avoiding criticism and blame. Being ethical is accepting the consequences for making the best decisions.

    Remember morality is about abrogating responsibility? The dying person makes their decision and wishes to die. For our own selfish reasons, not for their benefit, someone else decides they must continue to suffer and others must suffer so they can be moral.

    Euthanasia is ethical in the vast majority of cases, but it is immoral in most societies today. Politicians are largely being unethical by allowing this to continue. They are acting in their self interest – their ego removes their ethical component from their actions.

    So, I hope you now understand the difference between morals and ethics. It won’t change the world tomorrow, nor should it, but if perhaps you can just take a little more time to consider important decisions in ethical terms in future then your world will be a better, more tolerant place.

    If you want to practice straight away, ask yourself what are the ethical questions associated with smoking, with parenting and junk food, computer games or boxing. What about walking across the road safely on a Don’t Walk sign, forcing children to attend classes where they are disruptive in class, smoking a cigarette, working for an alcohol or uranium mining company. What are the ethics of working for a lobby group, being a politician or a vegetarian?

    And recall again, there is no absolutely right or wrong answer. There are better or worse answers, yes. But not right or wrong. The best you can do is better understand the issues, the consequences, and who and what is affected before deciding. You cannot make a truly ethically decision until you are on the spot. And each ethical decision will not be perfect nor please everyone, nor will it be valid forever, the answer may change tomorrow, but such decisions will be yours and the best you can make at the time with the information you have.