Becoming Resilient

The Office of Project Resilience (OPR)

Why You Need a SWAT Team for Failing IT Projects

According to IBM, 60% of projects fail to meet their goals and objectives. KPMG reports that 70% of organizations surveyed have experienced one or more project failures in the past 12 months.

Today organizations with IT budgets typically utilize a Program Management Office (PMO) to assess and report on the health of IT projects. The traditional PMO does a great job of reporting on project financials, project staffing profiles, schedule milestones, plus risks and issues... but they don't do enough to decrease the percentage of project failures.

To save failing projects, you need a new entity. I call it the Office of Project Resilience (OPR). The OPR would only focus on project execution and team dynamics; it would not include metrics typically used in the PMO. The OPR would have new metrics such team cohesion and resiliency scores.

The OPR might step in when a project is reporting red for more than 3 weeks. If the current team can't remedy the situation within this time period, then there probably is an undiscovered systemic issue.

  • Typical activities of the OPR might include assessing the following:
    • Do I have the right heads in the right hats?
    • Is the team working on the right things?
    • Does the team believe that success is achievable?
    • What's the current emotional state of the team and has it changed from last week?
    • What does the customer think of our team?
    • What's the probability that we'll actually make it?
    • Are there ongoing assessments of the team?
    • Are communications effective?

Image: ktpupp/Flickr

The OPR needs to have autonomy from the PMO and would be responsible for assessing roles and responsibilities on the project and putting new heads in new hats to reset the path to success. Once the project returns to a green status, the project would return to the jurisdiction of the PMO.

Predictability vs. Resiliency

Successful teams are resilient. But with IT projects, many organizations ignore the issues that influence resiliency. Instead, at the beginning of a project they look for a simple prediction, such as, "How long will this take?"

But the more complex the project, the more likely that won't go according to plan. Therefore, dealing with surprises requires resiliency. Let me illustrate with a simple example.

If your home water heater broke, you'd call a plumber and perhaps ask, "What do you think it will cost to replace my 40 gallon water heater?" You pick a plumber who offers a low estimate, say $500.

A few hours into the repair, your plumber breaks an old plumbing weld and causes a horrible mess; your basement floor is now flooded and your carpet is ruined. You no longer care about the plumber's ability to predict a $500 cost; now you just want him to be resilient enough to stop the flood and bring your house back under control.

If you had been watching the plumber, you might have pointed out the old weld to him. Or you might have noticed that he was rushing. This is the role of OPR: to influence in a positive manner the mindset and actions of teams that are under great pressure.

Want to learn more about how we measure Project Resilience? Click here.