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Episode 345: My Project is Failing, It is Not My Fault (Free)

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Peter Monkhouse
Cornelius Fichtner and Peter Monkhouse

This interview with Peter Monkhouse was recorded at the 2015 PMI® Global Congress in Orlando, Florida. We discuss his paper and presentation "My Project is Failing, It is Not My Fault". Here is the paper's abstract:

Projects fail. This is not new; projects having been failing for years. Studies have been done on why projects fail. The Project Management Institute (PMI) reported in the Pulse of the Profession® (2013a) that poor communication is the number one reason why projects fail. In fact, PMI states that poor communications is a contributing factor in 56% of the projects that failed.

But is this the fault of the project manager? A good project manager follows the appropriate methodology for the project, including using a variety of communication tools. But it is not just the method of communication that matters, it is the also the content of the communication that is important. The project manager needs to communicate with the project sponsor and stakeholders in the language of the business. The project manager needs to take the project data and convert it into business information that is actionable for the project sponsor and key stakeholders.

To do this, there are two tools the project manager can use. The first is to determine how the product or service of the project supports the organizational strategy. Knowing how the project supports the strategy of the organization will provide the language of why it is important for the project sponsor to support the project.

The second tool is the business model canvas which uses nine building blocks to describe how the strategy of the organization is implemented through organizational structures, processes, and systems. Knowing which block the project impacts will provide the project manager with the context to describe the project in the language of the business.

A project manager that speaks the language of the business will communicate more effectively with the project sponsor and project stakeholders, and improve the chances of the project meeting its objectives.

Episode Transcript

Below are the first few pages of the transcript. The complete transcript is available to Premium subscribers only.

Podcast Introduction

Cornelius Fichtner: Hello everyone and welcome back to the Project Management Podcast at Once again, we are coming to you live from the 2015 PMI Global Congress at Disneyworld in Orlando, Florida. And with me right now here in the hallways is Peter Monkhouse. Hello, Peter.

Peter Monkhouse: Hi, Cornelius. Pleased to be here and pleased to be talking to your audience today.

Cornelius Fichtner: Yes, you are a competitor of mine tomorrow morning because we'll both be speaking at the same time. Your topic is, My Project is Failing, it is Not My Fault. Before we get in to that, Peter, what is the big trend that you see for project management in the coming year?

Peter Monkhouse: I didn't realize were speaking at the same time. Can I come to your session?

Cornelius Fichtner: And I'll come to yours.

Peter Monkhouse: And you'll come to mine.

Cornelius Fichtner: And let's see what happens.

Peter Monkhouse: Exactly. You know, project management is a wonderful field, Cornelius. There's so much going on in the field. There's so many things of interest. The growth of people practicing project management, the growth in research and so on, it's just wonderful. But I think that what PMI has started this year with introducing a new Talent Triangle and the focus on Business and Strategic Management, is that's going to really start taking off. And that's going to be much more visible and it's going to continue for a few years that as project managers, we're going to have to understand business better than what we do. And this why I'm doing this paper, to share some experiences that I have had. I think I want to lose count of the number of years I've worked in private sector and then of the profit sector of the importance for us as project managers to understand why our projects are being done. Why is this the right project for the organization to do right now? And I think it's very important that as project managers we understand that and we know the sides of how to answer that question.

Cornelius Fichtner: Is there any particular reason why you chose this topic, focusing on failing projects?

Peter Monkhouse: Well actually the topics are not so much on failing projects because-

Cornelius Fichtner: How to avoid it I guess.

Peter Monkhouse: Yes, it's more about how to avoid failing projects. I mean, none of us wants to be involved in failing projects. But my experience of working on projects, being on the PMI board, and talking to project managers all over the world, I just see that we're all struggling with how do we ensure that our projects going to be successful. How do we – but for that, how do we ensure that this is the most important project our organization can do right now? And that's what I want to talk about, that's what I want to share, the matter is that I’m off the board and I can share.

Cornelius Fichtner: So the topic is My Project is Failing, It's Not My Fault. And obviously, I have to ask this. Is it my fault?

Peter Monkhouse: Absolutely.

Cornelius Fichtner: Oh, thank you.

Peter Monkhouse: Not my fault. Your fault.

Cornelius Fichtner: So you would say, if a project is failing, the project manager is largely at fault.

Peter Monkhouse: So you know, we've talked about this and I've actually been at some of the sessions here where there's a discussion about there's a lot of things that's outside the project managers control that prices go up, exchange rates change, suppliers deliver late. That, you know, that we view regulations change, that we view these as being external. They're not partly the fault of the project but the project manager. But I think, as a profession, I think as individual project managers, it's part of our responsibility to look out for these things, you know. There's rich knowledge here of risk management and so on, to look out for these things to say that, part of our job is to communicate to project sponsors, to our stakeholders, that these events are going on. And here's what the impact is on our approach act. Here's some of the options that you can do, right. And to do that, we need know, be able to speak their language, be able to know the language of the business. So if we're not doing that, yes, it is our fault.

Cornelius Fichtner: In your presentation and also in your white paper, you then talk about why projects fail. And there is a long list of various criteria and reasons why projects fail. What is really the number one reason why we see failing projects?

Peter Monkhouse: Yes, so the list I provide in the white paper and I give accreditation to is from PMI's research, right. And the number one reason is communication. It's by far the research that PMI has done, it shows us by far being the number one reason why projects fail is poor communications. And it goes on and talks about as well, the second one is the link to strategy and not being able to know how to strategic support. And then, not having clear objectives and clear measures of being the top three. So I think it's important. So, those are the ones that I'm going to focus on in the paper, are those top three to say, what can you do as a project manager, to do a better job with your communication, to do - to make sure your projects link to strategy, and make sure you know what success is.

Cornelius Fichtner: You mentioned earlier on that there are some factors that are outside of our control. What is in our control? 

Above are the first few pages of the transcript. The complete transcript is available to Premium subscribers only. Please subscribe to our Premium Podcast to receive a PDF transcript.

PDUs: Business Acumen, PMI Global Congress, PMI Global Congress NA 2015, Business Model Canvas

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Cornelius Fichtner
Cornelius Fichtner
Cornelius Fichtner, PMP, CSM, is the host and the author at The Project Management Podcast. He has welcomed hundreds of guests and project management experts to the podcast and has helped over 60,0000 students prepare for their PMP® Exam. He has authored dozens of articles on and PM World 360. He speaks at conferences around the world about project management, agile methodology, PMOs, and Project Business. Follow him on Twitter and connect with him on LinkedIn.

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