In my last blog I asked readers to comment on the core reasons for project failure. Well having waded through the flood of 10 responses (thank you all) here is what you said. Projects were split 50:50 between manufacturing and transactional with improving satisfaction levels and reducing costs the main objectives. But what I was principally after were the reasons for project failure. These I have classified into three groups.

The first two reasons were project issues (scope, time-frame, resources) and external events. But the main reason offered for project failure was buy-in from your management and colleagues. I was left thinking, “this is not enough”, I was looking for a root-cause. Why did they no have management buy-in? Could it be poor communications, lack of alignment to strategic objectives, insufficient benefits, manager moving job?

I was reminded of a story from one of the Star Trek films, can’t remember which one. When Captain Kirk was in star academy training there was a practical exercise all students had to do. The exercise was designed so you always failed no matter what strategy you applied. So when it was Captain Kirk’s turn he flew his spaceship hundreds of parsecs in the opposite direction and so completely avoided theexercise and certain failure. Could the same be applied? Could you predict project failure in the first place? Well possibly.

I researched the Internet only to produce no clear answer. It was my MBB who hit the spot with an article from the Harvard Business Review. A recent study of a few hundred change projects had identified the key dimensions that describe project success & failure. The dimensions being:

  • D – Duration between formal project reviews (toll-gates?)
  • I – Integrity and skills of the project team
  • C1 – Commitment and support of senior management
  • C2 – Commitment and support of people affected in the process
  • E – Effort required beyond the normal day-to-day work

Score your project from 1 (Best) to 4 (Worst) in each dimension and use the formulae:

DICE Score = D + 2 * I + 2 * C1 + C2 + E

A score between 7 and 14 means you are likely to succeed, anything over 14 should ring the alarm bells. The original research came out of Boston Consulting Group. So if past experience can be used as a predictor for future performance it may be worth a look. I have started to score my project initiatives to see if it works.

Still no nearer the true underlying root-causes for lack of commitment and support. Good luck with all your projects!

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