Why Projects are Designed to Fail and How to Make Them Succeed

In practice, the right answer is to engage in more frequent, much shorter, and more integrated planning/execution cycles with a prototyping mentality. This requires formal facilitation, mediation, and a shared and socially oriented framework and process including specific attention paid to important team insights, a rapid and integrated project planning process, accelerated execution practices, and ongoing adaptation through independently facilitated feedback mechanisms.

Move from head-to-head conflict to facilitated conflict mediation: Implementing this successfully and sustainably also requires independent and experienced facilitation. Whether project stakeholders are comfortable admitting it or not (and many aren’t), every team, function, division, and firm involved has self interests that are not or will not always be aligned with the priorities of reinvention projects overall. It is inevitable that there will be disconnects within and across the stakeholders — board of directors, senior management, the project team, consultants, and software/hardware suppliers. The truth is that independently and systematically resolving disconnects (early and often) needs to be proactively facilitated at the enterprise level to be productively and sustainably managed.

Validating a social science-based approach

When applied in practice, the social science-oriented approach has produced remarkable results. For example, a large global professional services firm removed six months from its enterprise software implementation with an 80X return on its reinvention investment.

An international manufacturing company reinvented its enterprise-wide transformation initiative to achieve one-time benefits of $100 million, with an 18X return on investment.

An international consumer products company reinvented its IT organization, reducing operating expenses by 15% and generating a 6X return.

A Fortune 150 company reinvented its business transformation initiative, generating savings of $180 million, with a 200X return.

As part of improving the returns on reinvention systematically, it’s also clear that successful organizations need strong portfolio management capabilities that provide the essential business direction and streamline priority setting for the projects themselves. A well thought out portfolio management strategy viewed through an organizational lens can help companies productively choose the right projects in the right order so they can do the best projects first and better.

The fact is that using an industrial orientation to reinvention projects fails to deliver 70% of the time. Through the proper use of a more holistic approach, a better planning process, and the use of independent facilitation and mediation to accelerate execution, these projects can be designed to succeed. In our globally competitive world, speed is a prerequisite for quality and competitive advantage. As a result, this accelerated and socially-oriented approach is critically important.

Inspired by legendary management thinker Peter F. Drucker and more than 200 other experts, Jack Bergstrand has dedicated his life’s work to enterprise reinvention. After a 20 year career in large organizations, including the roles of CIO of The Coca-Cola Company, as well as CFO and VP of Manufacturing and Logistics at Coca-Cola Beverages, he founded Brand Velocity Brand Velocity, wrote the book Reinvent Your Enterprise, developed the Strategic Profiling team acceleration tool, and created the Action Planning change leadership process. His company, Brand Velocity, was called “the smartest company that you’ve never heard of” in BusinessWeek, and his book is the only publication of its kind endorsed by The Drucker Institute.