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Reducing high project failure rates by improving group dynamics

  • 50-75% of projects fail to deliver on target, on time and within budget - mainly due to increased internal complexity within projects and increased uncertainty and volatility in the external environment.

  • When project organizations are “intelligent organizations”, they can navigate these challenges. A key characteristic of intelligent organizations is excellence in handling group dynamics. Research shows that organizations trained in group dynamics perform 25% better.

All projects face unforeseen challenges with imperfect conditions due to change and volatility. Project organizations must be intelligent and dynamic to overcome these and achieve project success.

Reducing high project failure rates by improving teams' and individuals' ability to handle the unpredictable

50-75% of projects fail to deliver on target, on time and within budget. This is an unacceptable waste of resources and a tremendous untapped potential. And yet, this seems to be silently endured or accepted by many organizations. Most mature organizations are aware of this and have the ambition to remedy it by improving and evolving methodology and tool support. But this has not shown a radical overall improvement.

The same measures are applied repeatedly, even though they don’t seem to work. The usual approach is to:

  • Apply increased governance and controls when there is increased uncertainty and risk
  • Focus on organization and planning when complexity becomes an issue
  • Compel and sell the outcome when there is resistance or ambiguity

This is often done at great cost, with tremendous efforts and perfect rationality but still it doesn’t seem to make a significant difference. So, what if we stop trying to systematically plan and control every critical part of a project and instead ask ourselves what the best way of working is, accepting that projects are to a large extent unpredictable? At Influence, we did just that. By considering how we and our customers work in successful projects we discovered an alternative solution that combines traditional measures, aimed at improving structure, and more dynamic measures, aimed at improving the ability to handle unpredictability.

As we know all projects will face unforeseeable obstacles, the best approach is to create a project organization that is intelligent and dynamic and can adapt to and compensate for imperfections – instead of falling victim to them. They are reflective and learning and continuously evolve their way of working to improve efficiency. They have stronger interpersonal relationships and a climate that stimulates and supports their effort. They have individuals that support the organization based on a deep commitment to the purpose and goal. Quite simply, such organizations are better at “being an organization”, of handling interpersonal collaboration in a complex environment – they have better group dynamics.

So far, the results we have seen are remarkable. We see consistently higher project success rates and within projects we see lower staff turnover, higher levels of commitment and importantly, people having more fun.

Business critically, research also shows that organizations trained in group dynamics perform 25% better.