The odds are against project managers.
According to the Standish Group’s Chaos Report, only about 30% of systems development projects actually succeed, 20% fail and the remaining 50% hobble between a success and failure state. It is interesting to learn that as project size increases, so does the risk of underperformance. What are some options to tackle this issue? Extending the duration of the project or adding staff seem like reasonable options but have yet proven to be more harmful than helpful. George Tillmann refers to the solution as “small is beautiful effect.”
He refers to the project sweet spot of a team size of about four to seven staff members and a project duration of 3-9 months. Of course these are recommendations as projects vary but he has found that maintaining a small headcount minimizes miscommunication as well as allows for timely completion of projects. In order to successfully do so he suggests the following:
- Parallel execution is ideal – Having multiple smaller projects instead of a large one allows for better planning and execution.
- Correct distribution is important – The idea of dividing a mega-project into smaller project seems simple but its key to the success of the mega-project. In order to do it properly, the manager must have an extensive understanding of the finished system and the tasks needed to build it. Sub-projects should “consist of processes where the communication (data sharing) between them is the highest.”
In summary, in order to increase the odds of success of a project, project management should phase large systems of development into manageable sub-projects.
Here are some key points I wanted to highlight when creating these sub-projects:
- These sub-projects need to have a single objective
- Involve a small number of skill areas to narrow down the amount of people involved in each project
- Utilize the project manager of that project as the primary source of leadership and for any decision making
- Planning is key!