I’ve been in the world of portfolio, programme and project management for nearly 30 years and have been frustrated with how our community struggles to leverage the lessons of past project delivery. I’ve held a number of roles including a lead for a $1bn nuclear infrastructure project, a PMO for a multi billion ICT portfolio and a £400m portfolio of cutting edge research, but similar themes continue to reoccur and opportunities are often missed.
Searching for inspiration Whilst leading a megaproject I reached into the corporate repository of knowledge and lessons, searching for wisdom and inspiration on how to learn from those who had gone before me. But the knowledge didn’t differentiate between the pearls of wisdom and insight from the statements of the obvious. It wasn’t in a form that I could consume or benefit from, but I had to tick some forms to demonstrate that I had read the information and applied it, as best I could. I was uncomfortable doing this because it gave the impression that I was appropriately prepared for battle, yet in reality I had acquired very little. It’s a feeling that has never left me and continues to trouble me.
Organisations have lessons learned processes, knowledge management strategies and communities of practice, but very few are able to demonstrate that they are learning from the past and that this is having a positive impact on delivery.
But this surely can’t be right. We spend billions every year delivering projects and history is littered with examples where projects have far exceeded the original, approved envelope. It costs society billions every year. There must be a better way of leveraging these lessons.
I’m on a quest to change this. My intent is not to develop the latest lessons learned register or introduce a new methodology for communities of practice. It is to reach deep into the heart and soul of how we learn from lessons and radically transform how we approach it. Without this transformational change we will continue to limp along, believing we are doing the best we can, yet when we look in the rear view mirror we see history littered with projects that have failed to deliver.
Data driven approach. We’ve tried communities of practice, wikis, databases, retrospectives and a raft of other initiatives and although they have delivered some positive impact, they have failed to address the fundamental challenge. This will only come from a data driven approach, applying big data and machine learning principles to identify key themes that need attention and to use this knowledge to prioritise future areas of focus; to provide the project manager and governance authorities with a sixth sense.
10,000 lessons. Projecting Success has collated nearly 10,000 lessons across a wide range of sectors. We’ll be publishing insights into this dataset over the coming months and years but it comes as no surprise that the evidence highlights that we aren’t learning very much. If we are can change this the data indicates that we may be able to save somewhere between 10 and 30% of the project budget, whilst helping to improve the reliability of outturn forecasts. When aggregated, it’s a multibillion opportunity.
It’s a bold endeavour, but its one I know is within reach. If you would like to work with me to deliver this quest then please get in touch; I’d be delighted to discuss it with you.
I’ll be developing the website over the coming months to make it a repository of data and insights into why projects struggle to deliver against expectations. I do hope you find it useful.
Martin Paver. CEO/Founder