The missing pieces to guaranteed project performance

list-linkEinstein famously said that you cannot solve a problem with the same thinking that created it, and he also said something about how insanity is trying the same thing over and over again expecting a different result.

But isn’t this what we are doing with our projects?  Trying to make our methods work, and hoping ‘this time will be better’?  We might do this by doing more training and getting qualifications, even more checks, approvals and supervision, or focusing on building better teams and improving our relations with stakeholders.

And whilst all these actions are not bad ideas in themselves, they don’t seem to be making things significantly better.  The same seems to be the case for project management qualifications – how many people on becoming a PMP say “Now I know how to deliver my project at least 25% faster and 10% cheaper”?

And we are left with just one option if we want a good project. A great leader with lots of experience.  The problem is that they are quite rare, costly, and even they dont guarantee a good result next time!

Over the coming weeks, I will be sending out a series of short articles to summarise what we think should be done to improve the results from capital and construction projects.  They are based on the book that I wrote with Robert Bolton, The Executive Guide to Breakthrough Project Management.  If you’ve read the book they will act as a quick reminder of the key ideas we wrote about, and if you haven’t, you will learn what our main recommendations are in a condensed form.  And I’n not just sending sections of the book out, this will be new material.
Study after study, is telling us that there is something wrong with capex and construction projects

  • In 2015 Ernst & Young studied 365 oil and gas megaprojects.  64% were overspending their budget, and 73% were running late
  • McKinsey looked at billions of dollars’ worth of projects in mining, oil and gas, and public infrastructure, and claimed that an astonishing 98% were either late or over budget
  • In the same analysis McKinsey also looked at productivity in construction, and compared it to the manufacturing sector.  Over the past 20 years, whilst manufacturing has increased productivity by about 60%, construction has seen productivity fall.  This is the same message that came from Tceicholz’s research of the US construction sector between 1964 and 2012.
    Of course projects can be derailed by changing requirements, or overly-optimistic budgets and schedules. McKinsey analysed this too, and said that of the projects that over-ran and over-spent, in 73% of cases this was due to execution problems – not changes, and not naïve optimism.

And what I and Robert have seen in our working lives in fully consistent with these studies – most projects have so much potential to deliver better, faster and cheaper!  Where we differ somewhat from the big-brand consultancies is what to do about the problem.  It isn’t so much that we disagree with their recommendations, it is just that we don’t think they go far enough, and in particular they don’t seem to have put the existing methods and techniques ‘under the spotlight’.

We have, and this is why in the next few emails, I’m not going to tell you to just use today’s accepted best practice, but ‘do it better’.  I will be challenging some of the commonly-accepted ‘ deep truths’ of today’s project management practices.

I’m going to suggest you stop using some of today’s most common methods, and recommend what they should be replaced by.  For many of you, it will challenge what you have been trained in, even how your boss, or client, measures your performance.

We believe that step-change improvements in in the performance projects are possible.  By changing the way projects are planned, procured, and how execution is controlled, they can be completed

  • On-time in less time
  • On-budget, at lower cost
  • Without compromising on scope, quality or risk.

And not by small increments, we are talking about durations that are 25-35% shorter, whilst costs are 10-15% lower.


What do you have to lose?  Today’s accepted practices and systems are not delivering projects reliably and consistently, and they are not driving ongoing improvement in value and performance.  And don’t think that the methods that we are recommending you use in the future are high risk strategies.  Over the coming weeks you will learn about organisations in many different sectors that have already used what we recommend to great success.  And if they can, there is no reason the mainstream capex and construction sectors cant do the same


If your career or business would benefit from improving how projects perform, or even if you are just interested in the idea, make sure that you don’t miss out on this short series of emails.  Its easy- just click on this text, and enter your email address.  We don’t pass your details on to anyone else, and you can unsubscribe at any time

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