Imagine a World Where All Projects Succeed

PM ChangeAgent Commentary by Stacy Goff.

I have used this article’s title as my kick-off phrase at a half-dozen project-related keynotes and presentations over the last few years. Most audiences immediately “lean into” the thought, and its ramifications. For example, in Moscow, Hong Kong, Beijing, Tianjin, Brussels, and in the USA, my audiences immediately took notice, became engaged, and were eager to hear more.

This August (2015) was the first exception I’ve had to that typical reaction: As I voiced the introductory statement, I immediately detected disbelief among many in my audience. This was at one of the USA’s best PM Symposiums: I think this is one of the best because of the high-level audiences, the speaker selection process, and excellent event organization.

When I sensed this audience’s disbelief, I immediately asked the question, “How many think this (for all projects to succeed) is even possible?” Less than a quarter raised their hands. So I launched into an extended introduction, pointing out that …

  • Project managers cannot improve project (and business) success just by working harder. Most of us are already working our hearts out;
  • Nor can we improve performance by sending people to still more training;
  • Our team members? They are not only committed to our projects—they are over-committed;
  • And our stakeholders? They are engaged, and expect us to continue to make miracles happen.

No, (I asserted) it is our layers of managers, from first-level to the executive suite, who hold the keys to higher levels of success. And (I said), the purpose of this presentation is to identify  seven key insights that can help our organizations to improve PM performance—and business success. The paper that supports that presentation will be posted at PM World Journal (and later, at IPMA-USA), but the purpose of this article is to further explore this question of disbelief.

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Horse Racing and Project Team Parallels

PM Commentary by Stacy Goff, ProjectExperts CEO.
Saturday’s (May 18, 2013) excitement in the USA’s Preakness horse race made me think of the parallels between the players in the horse-racing “sport,” and in successful projects. Each player fills an essential role in both cases, but it is the integration of all the roles that makes for success. And still, unanticipated events can cause even a “sure thing” to fail. I am not a horse racing enthusiast, but will admit to being drawn in this year (2013) to the hopes of the latest “Triple Crown” contender (a horse winning all of the big three racing events).

Horse Racing Roles
racingIt is the Horse that wins the race, right? Well, not so fast (so to speak). A fast horse, in most cases, is a key to success, but the Jockey has a key role as well. That role includes deep understanding and communication with the horse, plus the in-race tactics that require instantaneous judgements when situations change.

This weekend, when Orb, the “sure bet,” Kentucky Derby-winning horse was hemmed in at the rail, neither he nor his jockey could navigate to the outside, where he could regain his stride. Even the most talented jockey and a stellar horse cannot always assure success.

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