Project Management Success?

Posted by Kevin Brady on Sun 18th October 2009 at 06:53 PM, Filed in Programme ManagementProject Management

This seems a simple enough question. Surely the answer is:-

Deliver successful projects Stupid!

Well this is not quite true. Most Project /Programme Managers at some point in their career discover, often too late, that the best project /programme managers rarely get the chance to manage projects or programmes set-up for success. It’s the newbie /lightweight Project and Programme managers who usually get to run these kinds of projects and programmes (the successful ones). Sad but true!

I have lost count of how many enthusiastic project /programme managers I have mentored over the years who have suddenly realised the truth. That being successful in Project /Programme Management is not “the joy of giving birth” but being the “best funeral director in town”. Many feel disillusionment and suffer burnout when they realise this awkward home truth.

Whilst working for one of world’s biggest consultancy’s I was told by the practice lead “don’t tell the up and coming Project & Programme Managers the truth”. The reason for this was to minimise the high attrition rates (common across the industry).  From that point on mentoring became more of a game of manipulation than helping these young professionals realise their dreams of “giving birth” to the ultimate cutting edge project /programme of work. The truth was always -

You’re get fired either because you can’t deliver projects /programmes set-up for success


You can’t bury failing projects /programmes quietly.

Remember, if you’re paid higher than market average as a project /programme manager you can bet that you will be expected to “eat more crap” and parachute landings will be the order of the day.
I have recently read that there is a dramatic increase in the demand for “soft skill” and “Project Rescue Training Courses”. Perhaps this is an indicator that project undertaking is on the increase and many feel unprepared for challenge of making successful parachute landings. 

For those feeling un-confident, and those experienced managers striving to be the “best undertakers in town”, what are my top 10 tips for those wanting to be master parachutist:-

  • Make sure that you are clear about the facts which indicate why your project /programme is a failure and be prepared to defend your corner at any time
  • If your clients are unwilling or closed to discussing the concept /possibility of project failure for political reasons, never discuss the subject more than once. Keep a record of the discussion and be part of the illusion, appear positive but never forget the reality and focus on delivering a parachute landing.
  • Make sure risk and issue management is the No 1 process to be maintained or introduced at all costs. Remember risk and issue management can be used to spread responsibility for failure which is the key to a perfect parachute landing.
  • Make sure proper governance is in place and all your key stakeholders are identified, kept informed and, where possible, engaged in project /programme governance. Again, this spreads responsibility and accountability for failure.
  • Remember clients are 70% of the time responsible for 70% of IT project failures. So take sometime to look closely at the causal factors behind project /programme failure. The responsibility for failure might be far wider than you think!
  • Learn to be a facilitator (take a soft skills course) and get your stakeholders to make as many steering /management decisions as possible and minute everything.
  • Make sure your bosses are formally aware of the project /programmes real situation and get their formal buy-in to a parachute landing strategy.
  • Make sure that, wherever possible, the client is front load charged for everything. Use change control as a means for increasing margin.
  • Never lie. You will get caught and when the project /programme folds your head will back on the chopping block when sacrificial lambs are required. Remember you’re always the prime target so make sure you’re Teflon coated in this respect.
  • If the project /programme has been initiated without a contract, work full time to get something in place with subtle limits on liabilities for failure. Its always better to have a contract than not when the shit hits the fan.

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Yes Kevin you are perfectly right !

I don’t know but as I was reading your article I was keeping nodding my head in agreement reminding how many times I had to use those business expedients coming from the real-world experience to dodge proactively awkward situations.

Best Wishes


Posted by massimo scalzo  on Sun 20th December 2009 at 04:29 PM | #


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