Home Project Management General General Taking the Pulse of Project Management. A PCI Global Survey
US FTC Compliance
Yes, all these ads are some kind of affiliate link and I get paid a commission if you click or buy.
Not enough to quit my day job, but it keeps the site alive.
- Jeb Riordan, Editor, PROJECTmagazine
Taking the Pulse of Project Management. A PCI Global Survey Print
--- This article presents an overview of initial findings from a one-year survey conducted by PCI global, an international Project Management training and consulting company. The survey was conducted with hundreds of practicing team members and project managers from many of PCI's Fortune 500 clients. ---

Project managers are pragmatic people.
They live in a world of constantly shifting priorities, specifications and change. They worry that their project will fall behind, that costs will increase, that they will lose sponsorship or that their project will otherwise blow up. They are deeply interested in a better understanding of why projects fail - as so many do - in an attempt to avoid that fate.

Many self-proclaimed project management gurus have expressed their opinions regarding the causes of project failure. While these so-called gurus sometimes have insights to share, PCI has gone one-step further. Here, at last, is a careful, on-going research study that accurately assesses project success and failure rates both within corporations and across Project Management Institute chapters.

Projects do not appear or exist in isolation. They are developed in an organization drawing scarce resources from a common pool in a specific culture that supports, ignores or obstructs projects.
Projects cause changes and are, in turn, impacted and changed by their own organization. Resource unavailability, scope and specification changes require clear change control and configuration management. The project managers' skills determine if a project contributes to profitability or becomes a horror story.

The results of our survey point to problems in an undiscovered area: the blocks that organizations place in the path of project managers contributing to the high failure rates reported elsewhere. Analysis of study findings, provided in this article, also indicates what senior management needs to do to dramatically improve their project effectiveness.

Survey Sponsor: PCI Global Inc.

PCI Global is a charter member and registered education provider of the Project Management Institute. PCI provides project management training at four levels with their signature computer simulation seminars.

Our purpose in administering this survey is to continuously improve our ability to help project managers improve the practice and results of project management.
The survey consists of fourteen questions rating all aspects of participating company's corporate project effectiveness . It has been administered to hundreds of survey participants - more than 80% of whom are project managers or team members - the groups who bear the brunt of project consequences and are most impacted by their management's support, decisions, inaction or blockage.

The survey is embedded in an advanced training course that ensures that all participants respond, providing much more accurate data than is usually found. This article summarizes what our survey has revealed to date. A white paper, providing a more detailed discussion of all aspects of the survey is available upon request.

Survey Findings

Here we present the ten main findings followed in each case by an analysis to determine the implications of each finding:

  1. Respondents rated their organization's frequency of project management success as moderate or good. That is 54% rated performance 'moderate', while 44% of respondents rated performance as 'good.' Only 2% rated success rate as 'poor.
    Analysis - No respondent to date has rated the overall project management success of their organization to be excellent. This indicates a tendency toward mediocrity that should not be tolerated. Organizations should strive to do much better through training and a program of continuous improvement.

  2. A majority of respondents did not know the outcome of their projects.
    To be precise:
    44% did not know what % of projects came in on time,
    64% did not know what % of projects came in-budget,
    54% did not know what % of projects successfully met requirements specifications.
    Analysis - management apparently does not understand the importance of keeping project managers informed of the perceived success or failure rate of their projects. This is a very troubling finding -- troubling because without a feedback loop from the stakeholders to the project management team, there can never be the continuous improvement that all project management functions require in order to be of value to their organization.

  3. 52 % report very poor methods for obtaining human resources - either by "taking whoever is offered" (46%) or "fighting for the best people" (6 %)
    Analysis -- The worst possible answer, "taking whatever people are offered", was received 46% of the time. The next worst answer, "fighting for the best people", was received 6% of the time, so we can safely say that more than half of the respondents have difficultly with human resource allocation. There is a vast difference between teams that have the best available people assigned to them as compared to teams that have people assigned at random. In fact, the right team very often will be successful even if the planning and design work is less than stellar, whereas a weak team will very often turn excellent plans and designs into a failed project.

  4. Despite the foregoing finding number three, 73% say the Project Manager is most likely to be held responsible for the ultimate outcome.
    Analysis -- While we support holding project managers accountable, we recognize that everyone involved in projects should be held accountable to the degree warranted. Putting the burden on the PM's shoulders exclusively does not encourage teamwork. An interesting finding of the survey is that line managers are the least likely to be held responsible. If line manages are truly involved in the projects that the PM's they manage are responsible for, they need to share some of the responsibility for the outcome of projects.

  5. 52% say the PM gets his/her authority from "within him/herself." While another 47 % get authority directly from senior managers.
    Analysis --It is a positive finding that 47% of PM's at the participating organizations get their authority from sponsors or senior management. But we wonder why responsibility doesn't flow through the immediate supervisor. The group that reported that authority comes from within the PM him/herself is reflecting a kind of Wild West culture that will not be supportive of project management or the PM.

  6. Only four percent report authority being documented in a job description. Analysis - All project managers must have a documented job/position description, lack of one is an indication of middle and senior management not being involved as they should and may indicate that they are not doing their job.

  7. Project sponsors are much less involved than expected. They are either "practically invisible" - 24% of the time -- or "only involved when a crisis occurs" - 68% of the time.
    Analysis -- Among our participants, sponsors are not involved on a regular basis. This reflects a "turnkey" attitude that is not good for anyone. Major projects designed to change critical aspects of complex organizations can't run their projects successfully if the sponsors are not directly and heavily involved.

    The reasons sponsors must be involved are many and include the following:
    - To ensure that changes in the business that impact the project are being communicated and reacted to
    - To ensure that the technical challenges don't distract the project team and divert their attention from the purpose of the project. Clarity of purpose is of paramount importance to project teams and must continuously be reinforced and, reiterated. The sponsor should play a key role in accomplishing this.
    - To show that he/she cares about the outcome and is willing to put in time and effort to support the team and ensure that the best possible outcome is achieved.

  8. Project team members have performance evaluations by the three managers who should be providing input -- line manager, project manager and project sponsor -- only 8% of the time. 52 % of the time evaluations are done by the functional line managers only; not the project manager for whom they do the work.
    Analysis -- Project related evaluations should be performed by those closely involved in overseeing the project. In many organizations the line managers of specialists from various disciplines will not be directly involved in projects. Where this is the case, it is perfectly appropriate for project related performance reviews to be conducted by the project manager only. In our survey this was unlikely to occur - it happens only 8% of the time according to the participants.

    Equally unlikely is the best case answer to this question - reviews by project and line managers along with a review by the project sponsor.

    This situation points to an environment that is not supportive of the project managers or their job. When you tie this into the lack of knowledge of project outcomes commented on above, it indicates a lack of adequate management oversight and control resulting in haphazard results and no continuous improvement.

  9. 34% of respondents rated human resource skills and 32 % rated business knowledge the most import skills for project managers to possess.
    Analysis: This presents a huge opportunity for the further development of project managers. These are needs , which are largely unmet in most organizations. We know that project managers are often promoted from technical positions and when this is the case, they are unlikely to possess the requisite business and human resources skills to do their new job properly. An effective process for promoting project managers will include training in both disciplines at the earliest possible time as well as continuously throughout the project management career.

  10. Project Management Offices are part of the organizational structure only 57% of the time. When they are used, they have a reported good (25%) to moderate (16%) impact on project success rates in a majority of cases.
    Analysis - This finding shows that the relatively new approach of using the PMO to manage projects and in fact oversee the management of projects is gaining traction. We support the continued adoption of the PMO approach and believe it can be even more effective. However, the proper use of the PMO requires training and a shift in thinking that can only be brought about by training given as early in the process as possible.


Copyright © PROJECTmagazine (c) 1998 - 2019 for practical project management information. All rights reserved.