With more than two-thirds of projects not meeting their objectives or delivering expected outcomes, a new report suggests that it is due the failure to have five critical conversations about the execution of any given project and the failure of project leaders to speak up about issues or problems. And for those project leaders that do speak up, there is a clear difference between speaking up and speaking up well.
According to Silence Fails: The Five Crucial conversations for Flawless Execution, many organisations have implemented formal project systems yet still experience significant project failures. Its authors suggest that formal systems on their own are not enough to deliver effective project delivery that meets the expected outcomes, instead identifying five key areas that can predict and explain failure, including:
- Setting up a project to fail because of unrealistic deadlines or insufficient resources
- Lack of leadership, clout, time investment or energy from stakeholders to see a project through to completion
- Project leaders and teams working around priority setting processes
- The failure of leaders and team members to admit a project has issues or significant problems in the hope that someone else will speak up
- The lack of support or inability to support a project by teams within the project
The report found that most projects that fail have significant issues that are not dealt with effectively, for example, project leaders not speaking up for reasons such as internal politics, lack of confidence or lack of support, as well as their inability to be effective in raising issues about a project to senior management. In some cases, critical issues have become so common that many project leaders have stopped seeing them, much less confront and discuss them.
Cultivating a culture of open dialogue was identified as a key method of addressing these issues, and the report highlights five key methods that project leaders need to facilitate :
- Make problems visible
- Measure the behaviours of team members
- Upskill their team members to handle politically sensitive issues and lead discussion
- Enable organisations to hold senior management accountable
- Send a clear and public message that these conversations are crucial and people who raise these issues are highly valued.
For more information about Silence Falls, visit www.silencefalls.com to download the full report.