On a very broad level, work that organisations do can be divided into two large buckets : Operational work and Projects. Operational work is the everyday expected regular piece of work which needs to be done on a regular basis and usually there are strong processes or known playbooks around tackling it. On the other hand, projects are special type of work chunks with specific goals and usually are coupled with tentative fixed start and end timelines. When management or top executives at companies are dealing with the operational side of work, there are very few surprises and the work tends to get completed more or less with varying degrees of efficiency.
But when it comes to projects, the rate of failure or for project to not deliver on the expectations initially outlined, is way too high. The reason for this is usually the idiosyncrasies which are associated with every new project. There are many reasons why projects — whether small, mid or large, end up as failure — guzzling down endless hours of team members, management bandwidth and money.
To really capture the essence of why a project fails, it is important to understand the nuances of most common reason why projects fail. More often than not , there is a clear pattern of common issues which are often ignored and lead to project not delivering the intended value and the leader of the pack with comprehensive lead is : Lack Of Project Planning.
Projects are complex beasts and are marred with huge amounts of inherent uncertainties. This is why project planning phase is one of the most important part of the project lifecycle and plays a critical role in success or failure of project. At the very onset of every project, it is important that all the aspects and nitty gritties of the projects are meticulously defined and planned. This requires all the stakeholders of the project to come together and define what does success look like to them. All of these goals need to be assimilated and aligned with the outcome of project and that includes breaking down the chunks of higher level goals into smaller tactical issues or tasks.
Once a timeline for the project is defined, then it is the role of project manager or project leader to segment it into sub phases — each with its own specific milestones. Larger projects tend to go on for a very long time, so having these set of milestones keeps everyone motivated and also helps to analyse if the project is progressing in the right direction and is complying to the schedule.
Cost over-runs is directly a consequence of not being able to do the right estimation or have contingencies though out for black swan scenarios. Financial aspect is the corner stone of holding the fragile ship of your project together and brutal reality of project shipwrecks underneath the abyss just proves a point that how often teams ignore it.
Project Planning also helps to keep the demons of scope creep at minimum as the objectives and scope of the project is defined and agreed upon at the very beginning. If scope is not planned and restricted, then project often wanders off into adjacent directions subject to the changing requirements and quite likely end up in the graveyard of project failures. Project planning also helps you to do task allocation to appropriate team members and also it gives you a good sense of your resource and capacity management.
Everybody really talks about doing Project Planning, but it is the level of depth, breadth and detail in the plan which sets it apart from what you may call a mediocre project plan. So the process of project planning is extremely critical one and to make sure that project succeeds, it is important to do it right and with the right set of tools.