Behavior based project management harnesses the emotional quotient of the project team. That’s important because there is continuing evidence that projects of all types fail to meet their objectives.

Failing Projects

Long International, construction claims consultants, analyzed reasons for construction project failure that were cited during disputes, and came up with this list.

  • The project management team didn’t plan the work, or when it did, it didn’t properly follow the plan.
  • Parties to the project didn’t provide enough staff or labor.
  • The parties didn’t develop adequate schedules and maintain those schedules throughout the construction cycle.
  • The parties didn’t control costs and changes.

And, these are the causes behind the reasons.

  • lack of training of project management team members
  • not enough people assigned to the project management function

It’s a Human Thing

But, that only describes the causes at a high level, as if the issue is only about assigning the right resources at the right time. It makes it a process problem instead of calling it what it really is — a human problem.

After all, it’s people who not only do the work, but also plan the work. So, why would a construction planner assign a project manager who doesn’t have the skill to do the job? Or, why would a contractor assign too few project management people to a project? If you assume they’re not intentionally trying to sabotage the project, you’re left with a short list of reasons.

  • They don’t know any better.
  • They’re trying to save money.
  • They’re poor managers themselves.

Staggering Costs

The costs of poor project management are enormous. PricewaterhouseCoopers found that of more than 10,000 projects done by 200 companies in 30 countries, only 2.5% of the companies successfully completed all their projects. When the Harvard Business Review analyzed more than 1,000 information technology projects it found the average cost overrun was 27%. You only need to look at headlines describing construction projects running in the red to get an idea of the costs of poor project management to this sector.

To summarize, the rate of failure for projects has not really decreased — and there’s a reason for that. It’s time to update project management not with more methodologies, but with more emotional content. Employees’ and stakeholders’ disengagement can make a project fail, but behavior-based management can make projects succeed. – Benoit Hardy-Vallee, Ph.D., PMP

So, even after applying all the latest thinking on project management, using all the latest tools, and following all the best practices, all types of projects still don’t get done on time and on budget. And, a significant number of them simply don’t get done. Why?

Behavior Based Approach

Gallup, the analytics and advice company, maintains it’s because organizations put their processes and practices ahead of people. Forcing people to adapt to project management processes and procedures increases the chance of project failure. It happens because people focus on the methods, charts and graphs. They focus on complying, rather than on getting the most valuable results. Gallup’s research suggests a more powerful approach is behavior based project management.

Power in Emotion

In a behavior based project management environment, you manage the organization’s emotional resources.  And, you back that up with scientific research about people and workplaces so you can build project management teams that excel at project delivery. The reason it works is because when you meet the emotional needs of people they become engaged with the organization, and ultimately with the project. Commitment, enthusiasm and loyalty are all characteristics of people when they’re engaged with something. Organizations that have applied behavior based techniques at workgroup level have outperformed their largest peers by 26% in gross margin, with 85% in sales growth.

Embarking on behavior based project management is not for the faint hearted, but it is a journey well worth the trip for companies that recognize the systemic problems of modern project management, and that want to overcome them. Here are resources to get you started.


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