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Driven to precision

Why do projects always seem to take longer and cost more than planned? There has been a huge amount of research undertaken in an attempt to find out why this phenomenon is, to many Project Managers, almost a fact of life. A number of conclusions have been drawn from this research. One conclusion that is worthy of re-examination is that in most organisations Project Managers are driven to precision by the attitudes that exist towards project management. As Project Managers, we tend to focus on answering the project sponsor’s questions rather than the business needs. When a project sponsor wants to know when the project will finish and how much it will cost it is much simpler to give a date and financial amount rather than to say “sometime between November and January and between £350,000 and £420,000”. Often providing ranges in this situation is culturally unacceptable and so Project Managers are driven to precision by the unrealistic expectations of stakeholders. If the Project Manager bows to pressure and says the project will be finished on 10 December with a final outturn cost of £361,000, it is highly likely that both of these predictions will be PRECISELY INCORRECT. If the project was finished on 9 January at a cost of £405,000 the project would be reported as being late and over budget, when really it wasn’t.

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