Project management – is it getting worse?

I received an interesting press release this evening. I have copied all of it below:

The Standish Group’s just-released report, “CHAOS Summary 2009,” “This year’s results show a marked decrease in project success rates, with 32% of all projects succeeding which are delivered on time, on budget, with required features and functions” says Jim Johnson, chairman of The Standish Group, “44% were challenged which are late, over budget, and/or with less than the required features and functions and 24% failed which are cancelled prior to completion or delivered and never used.”

“These numbers represent a downtick in the success rates from the previous study, as well as a significant increase in the number of failures”, says Jim Crear, Standish Group CIO, “They are low point in the last five study periods. This year’s results represent the highest failure rate in over a decade”

In the “CHAOS Summary 2009” report The Standish Group has re-examined 10 the CHAOS Success Factors. Each Success factor is supported by one of the Laws of CHAOS. The Standish Group’s “CHAOS Summary 2009” report is available free of charge to Standish Group subscribers. Non-subscribers may obtain copies directly from The Standish Group for $99.00 per copy and the offer also includes Jim Johnson’s book “My Life is Failure”.

So, is project management practice despite all the training, certification, conferences etc getting worse? What do you think? If it is, why?

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8 Responses to Project management – is it getting worse?

  1. Ron,
    One critical piece of missing information in the Standish reporting process is:

    “Was the baseline for the project credible on day one?”

    Without this information the statistics are one-side values with no bsaeline for comparison. So if 44% of the project had poor baselines, then there should be no surprise that they were challenged.

    This is an example of How to Lie with Statistics, Darrell Huff, 1954

  2. Ron,

    Are projects simply doomed from the outset with unrealistic customer expectations and budgets leading to bidding to win work rather than to preserve what can actually be achieved. If the programme contract price and schedule agreed from the outset is unrealistic then the programme will struggle to deliver to either time, cost or quality.


  3. Paul Billinge says:

    I must agree with Mick, All too often the lowest price wins! And then companies try and top up with extras, this can only impact on time and on costs.
    Clients must also take responsibility too; all too often a client can be the root cause of time and cost implications.
    Regards Paul

  4. Ron,

    Thanks for pointing out the report, I stumped up the cash and bought it. I’ve posted a little about it at

    The most interesting part of the report is their thinking on WHY success rates are falling, which is largely attributed to increased process and project red tape (that obviously isn’t paying off).


  5. Pingback: Project managers plan for failure rather than success | Ron Rosenhead's Project Management Blog

  6. Sean Hull says:

    Hi Ron,

    I’m always up for a good debate 🙂

    I have been involved in my share of enterprise level IT projects over the years. True to hype, most of them fell short of being “successful” projects. But I have seen a gradual improvement in project performance over the years. I attribute that improvement with a shift from project management being considered a “resume skill” to be applied to a project to PM practitioners taking over the helm.

  7. Ron,

    I just spotted your blog.

    I hope it is not getting worse. It is bad enough already. I’ve seen worse and good practices as a Project Manager, trainer and PMcoach in the last 14 years.
    I still see that it is all too insttumental. Too much focus on tools, products, planning, procedures, methodology etc. Project Management is still people-business. So cooperate, work together, Team up together, collaborate this meeans Business/IT/Staff and also Project-sponsor/-PM/-Contractor/-Teammembers.
    It comes down to Attitude, Behavior and Culture. Attitude: What people thinki and Feel; Behavior what people do and Culture the accepted ways of working in an organisation. These should be in line with eachother, not conflicting. If we in projects do not address de ABC-issues from project-start to -end, we create more CHAOS. The methods, tools and best practices should help you out, to create more time for dealing with ABC-issues –> people.

  8. There is no doubt that the last six months have been particularly harsh with demand in both the permanent and contract sectors falling to very low levels indeed.

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