Mar 6, 2017

2017: Is That Risk or Uncertainty on the Horizon?

Posted by Jeannette Cabanis-Brewin | 1 Comment

41% of failed projects are due to changing organizational priorities

Getting ready to send out our Q1 newsletter, we have all been looking at trends in the marketplace for this year. In a study cited by Debbie Crawford in her recent blog, the strategic role of project management is predicted to be heightened by the participation of portfolio managers in the strategy formulation and management processes ... something which makes so much sense that we predicted it a decade ago.

But today things seem much less predictable. An article in this week’s financial news column in the New Yorker looks at the current uptick in the stock market; among other things, writer James Surowiecki explains:

Risk is when you don’t know exactly what will happen but nonetheless have a sense of the possibilities and their relative likelihood. Uncertainty is when you’re so unsure about the future that you have no way of calculating how likely various outcomes are.

When you have "no way of calculating how likely various outcomes are," it seems to me your next line of defense is adaptability. Indeed, in a Forbes article on trends for 2017, they stress that "Adaptability is more vital to success than ever." This is one of those articles when I feel I am reading about project management between the lines. Given that project managers have spent roughly a decade promoting the use of agile methods (finally now getting some traction: our latest State of the PMO study tells us that nearly 40% of PMOs have implemented agile processes), I would lay some of the credit for increased adaptability on the PMO's doorstep.

Whether an organizationis faced with uncertainty or risk, having excellent project and program management processes in place can help them respond. The increasing trend toward implementing agile processes, in particular, promises to make even behemoth organizations more nimble in their response to change – or even crisis.

Being show to respond to change is one of companies’ primary sources of project failure, according to PMI’s latest research study: 41% of failed projects are due to changing organizational priorities. “Whoops, we don’t care about this anymore” is a dreadful way to acknowledge project managers’ time and effort on projects that may have come in on time and under budget … but rendered irrelevant by unforeseen pivots necessitated by events in the marketplace.

Nevertheless, corporate CEOs are trying to keep their companies on a steady course, even professing confidence for the year ahead; from our perspective as a firm that helps organizations achieve their strategies, the most positive note from a recent pwc study is that CEOs recognize that a strong corporate purpose is vital in these times. I hope they also recognize that purpose becomes reality via the projects and programs that execute it.

Interesting times! Whether that is a blessing or a curse, your project management maturity will be a steady hand on the tiller.

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1 Comment on 2017: Is That Risk or Uncertainty on the Horizon?

jcabanis-brewin says:

On the other hand ... this week in The Economist, I find the following research cited:
The Economist Intelligence Unit’s report Year in Crisis finds that two-thirds of executives think the world became a riskier place to do business in 2016. And the same percentage think it will get worse in 2017.

Posted on March 20, 2017 at 9:44 am

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