BBA 3626 Unit VII Research Paper
Columbia Southern University
In the ideal world, all projects would be completed successfully with every aspect of the project and its deliverables meeting the specifications set forth by customers. Unfortunately, all too often this is not the case and projects are forced to be terminated prior to realizing their completion. Early termination of a project can occur for a number of different reasons through mutual agreement, for convenience of the buyer, or due to the fact that one of the parties involved has defaulted. Within a project, it is ultimately the responsibility of the project manager to ensure that all work pertaining to the particular project has been completed successfully. Project managers can refer to a host of resources such as the project charter, scope statement, work breakdown schedule, and various communication plans as a means of verifying that everything that was promised to be completed, has actually been completed (Kloppenborg, 2015). Whether a project is a success or a failure, capturing lessons learned is a vital step within closing any project. “Lessons learned are the useful knowledge gained by project team members as they perform a project and then reflect on both the process of doing the work and the results that transpired” (Kloppenborg, 2015, p. 427). Lessons learned can be gathered from both positive and negative happenings within a project. They can include processes that worked well and should be applied to future projects, but also things that did not work so well and should be avoided or substituted on future projects (Kloppenborg, 2015).
In the article “Silver Linings: Capturing lessons learned can help teams turn project failure into long-term success,” Matt Alderton (2019) discusses various large projects that have suffered horrific failures for one reason or another. Examples include projects such as the cancelation of a $13 billion airport project in Mexico City that was canceled after 37% of the work had been completed, or the cancelation of a project after four years of planning that was implemented to convert a 964 mile U.S. natural gas pipeline into a fracking byproduct removal line. Alderton (2019) also states that a PMI survey conducted in 2018 concluded that 15% of all projects were deemed to be failures, but it is important to understand that when a project fails, there are always lessons to be learned and that value can be created from these failures.
One great example within this article of a failed project that yielded valuable lessons learned was a project by Michael Uhl; a then project manager for Lockheed Martin, who was tasked with a yearlong project to create an educational program for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that demonstrated the harmful affects of motor vehicle emissions to U.S. residents. The project ultimately failed due to the fact that it did not meet the requirements set forth by the project sponsor and both Mr. Uhl and the sponsor agree that the failure is attributed simply to poor communication. In the initial stage of the project, Uhl and his project team felt that they had gathered all of the lab director’s requirements correctly, however, there was a yearlong gap between the initial meeting and any subsequent meetings and when the project was delivered, the lab director believed that the final product did not meet the requirements of the project. According to the project manager in this case, they key lesson learned is that you must have regular and constant communication with they key stakeholder as it is possible to misunderstand their requirements, or their requirements may have changed since the beginning of the project, but you will not know this information if you are not talking to them regularly (Alderton, 2019).
From this failure, Uhl and his team created a far more aggressive communication approach for use in future projects. “At the start of every project, the team proposed stakeholder meetings every two weeks for at least 30 minutes. And if the product owner missed multiple meetings, the team would escalate go or no-go decisions to management” (Alderton, 2019, p. 60). The team felt it appropriate that if stakeholders were not going to show up to meetings, then the project should be stopped and management could then reallocate that funding to other projects. In addition to the project team taking lessons learned and making changes, the EPA also made significant changes following the failed project by implementing a requirement to appoint a committee of its managers to review all project proposals and to grade them based on merit. The ultimate outcome of the failed educational program for the EPA resulted in not only improved project planning for Uhl and his team, but also improved project governance for the EPA on the customer side of the project (Alderton, 2019).
As it is evident that not all projects will reach their completion and be deemed successes by meeting and satisfying all of the specifications set forth by customers, it is important to understand the various aspects that can lead to project failure and to be able to capture and apply lessons learned in order to improve upon future projects. Continuous communication with stakeholders is key throughout the life of a project, as seen in the failed EPA emissions education project by Michael Uhl and his team at Lockheed Martin. Constant communication with stakeholders enables them to validate that scope is complete with interim deliverables throughout the life of the project and then with final deliverables in the end (Alderton, 2019). This will help to ensure that deliverables meet all of the requirements of the project and steer the project towards successful completion.
ALDERTON, M. (2019). Silver Linings: Capturing lessons learned can help teams turn project failure into long-term success. PM Network, 33(7), 56–63. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com.libraryresources.columbiasouthern.edu/login.aspx?direct=true&db=bsu&AN=136704468&site=eds-live&scope=site
Kloppenborg, T. J. (2015). Contemporary project management (3rd ed.). Stamford, CT: Cengage Learning
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