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Why projects fail - early in the morning in Germany...

Here are 5 common misconceptions about project management:

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According to current studies, 35% - 70% of all business projects in Germany fail - depending on the type and scope of the projects studied and the research methodology used.

We have not verified these figures, but our own clients in the project consulting sector report that around two-thirds of their previous projects did not achieve a satisfactory result or were significantly outside the set time frames and budgets.

We do not want to go into the nature and definition of projects or the differences between classical and agile methods here. It is important to us to share with you the most important misconceptions about project management and thus save you from making the same mistakes. Here is a classic example from our consulting practice:

>Early in the morning in a conference room somewhere in Germany.

The sales manager of a medium-sized company reports further customer complaints about delayed deliveries and it becomes clear to the management that they need to do something. They ask the department heads present for suggestions.

There are vague theories and mutual accusations about the reasons for the delivery delays. It is quickly agreed that the problem should ideally be solved in a separate project in order to minimize the impact on daily routine work.

It is quickly decided that the topic of deliveries is most likely a matter for logistics, and ten minutes later they have appointed their best logistics expert as project manager to increase delivery performance. The project work should ideally be done on the side and without much expense. All of this is no problem, the logistics expert is very good at organizing herself. With serious faces, the management makes it clear to her how important the project is for the success of the company. So motivated, nothing can go wrong.

The logistics expert gets to work. After four months, she announces tiredly that despite all the difficulties and internal resistance, the delivery performance of outgoing truck transports has been increased from 89% to 93% on time. She also says that she is now completely overworked and feels sick and burned out, but at least she has successfully completed her project…

… The number of customer complaints has not changed…<

What sounds like a constructed case from a management children’s book is a true case from our consulting practice and is exemplary for misunderstandings and misconceptions about projects, which can be found in every company in a similar way and which we encounter every day.

Misconception number 1: The best specialist should lead a project.

The main task of a project manager is to optimally organize the interaction of all project participants in such a way that the desired results can be achieved within the set time frame and budget. He/she takes care of the steering of the project organization, planning, execution and not of the creation of the desired project output – this is the task of the project experts in interaction with the other project bodies, depending on the chosen method. An experienced project expert can do this in different industries and project contexts – your expert may not be able to do this.

Misconception number 2: Projects don’t need clear goals, that’s why we call it a project.

Without a clear task description, the probability that “something” will be delivered – as in the example – is very high. Even if the outgoing transport performance could be increased, it was not the cause of the delivery problems. We do not know of any project method that does not at least attach importance to so-called minimum acceptance standards. Such standards can only be formulated with a clear target specification, which is ideally measurable or at least estimable. A focus on reducing customer complaints would have been the right approach here.

Misconception number 3: Power Point and good ideas – that’s all a project needs.

In the present case, the actual solution to the problem was actually to be achieved by a simple and cost-effective harmonization of production planning and procurement. Nevertheless, a project also requires the appropriate personnel, expertise and time capacities in addition to the obvious resources of money, project equipment and tools.

The logistics expert lacked both the resource time, which led to individual overstrain due to the double workload of daily business/project work, and one of the most important resources in a project environment at all: access to information!

If she had had access to all the necessary information of the complete supply chain, the actual cause of the delivery problems would have been recognized and solved at an early stage. Pronounced silo mentality and lack of empowerment/authority prevented this, which leads us to three further important and not to be neglected project resources.

(1) The commitment of the management level, (2) the clear communication of the project and (3) consensus of the middle management.

A project always aims at a development in the business operation. Be it the optimization of existing business areas or the development of new business components. Projects therefore usually have a higher significance for the respective company.

Without an understanding of basic project methods and project organizations, the success statistics work against you from the beginning. Therefore, avoid misconceptions number 4 and 5.

Misconception number 4: Project consultants are expensive luxury resources.

Yes, experienced consultants can be costly, but they can also add significant value. They help to complete projects faster and more efficiently, minimize risks and maximize the return on investment. The cost of project consulting in this case was negligible compared to lost customer reputation and lost orders over a period of more than one year. Calculate carefully, but include all variables in your calculation. There are hardly any serious studies on the total costs of projects that are not successfully completed in the German economy, but common sense suggests what savings potential could be realized with correct project execution.

Misconception number 5: Project consulting is only relevant for large companies.

The challenges of small businesses are identical to those of large businesses. They often differ only in the scope and number of necessary projects, with the difference that large companies naturally tend to have a professional project infrastructure and project expertise is therefore more readily available. This makes it all the more important for SMEs to ensure successful and efficient project execution through external consulting, especially since consulting services for these companies can be subsidized by the state with up to 80% of the consulting costs.

Experienced project managers, clear goals, adequate resources and the possibility to use project consulting are decisive factors for your project success.

Companies should carefully consider how they can improve their project management practices to minimize risks and ensure the success of their projects. They should carefully calculate whether the investment in professional project consulting can also be a cost-reducing rather than cost-driving factor for them.

If you have any questions or need support, please do not hesitate to contact us. We are happy to accompany you on your way to more efficient and successful project management.

Book your Free Initial Consultation now.

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