Jamal’s Musings – “My Projects are Constantly Late, Over Budget and Deliver Low-Quality Products. What Can I Do?”

I get asked this question all the time. My consulting engagements start with it. My trainings – whether public or on-site – start with it. Sometimes, I even hear it during casual conversations with my friends. Usually this inquiry is followed by the following statement, “Well, you are the project management expert! Care to share your opinion on the subject?”

In reality the answer to this question is not that simple and exists in a two-dimensional space, so to speak.

First, if the company is experiencing these problems, there is a good chance that their project management processes are deficient. The word “deficient” in this context can mean a number of things: lack of proper methodology and templates, absence of experienced project managers or insufficient executive buy-in for project management just to name a few. Any combination of these factors severely limits the ability of the organization to scope, estimate, schedule and control their endeavors potentially leading to missed deadlines, overrun budgets and poor quality products and services.

But there is also an additional dimension to this problem called the strategic resourcing. The question that needs to be answered in order to solve the strategic resourcing predicament is very simple:


“Do you have too many projects in the pipeline and too few resources at your disposal? And if the answer is yes, then which projects are you going to cut or how many resources are you going to add to your pool?”


Let me demonstrate this concept using a seeming unrelated example.


Let us assume that you are a student in one of my project management courses. You are an A+ scholar that knows everything there is to know about project management. To make a long story short, there is no question I can ask that you would be unable to answer.

Let us further assume that the average number of questions on a two-hour final exam for this type course is five. How well would you realistically expect to do on the two-hour exam if I were to decide to include a hundred questions of the same size and complexity on the final test? 

Obviously, no matter how smart and well-prepared you were for the exam, you would no doubt fail.


Interestingly enough, when professionals and, especially, executives are provided with the “final exam” case study, they unanimously agree that there is absolutely no chance that any student in the classroom would be able to answer all 100 questions in the course of two hours. But as soon as the concepts of “questions” and “final exam” are replaced with “projects” and “fiscal year” respectively their attitude changes completely and they start thinking something along the lines of, “Well if I somehow make them work a bit harder …”

The lesson here is a company must have an appreciation of its own throughput capacity and ensure that the total size of its ventures corresponds to the size of its project pipeline - meaning the number of projects your employees can handle and deliver successfully is a finite number, which falls under the project portfolio management domain.

So what is the conclusive answer to the question mentioned in the title of this article? If you organization is experiencing project delivery challenges, the root causes of this situation are most likely concealed in both inadequate project management and project portfolio management.


About the Author

Jamal Moustafaev, MBA, PMP – president and founder of Thinktank Consulting is an internationally acclaimed expert and speaker in the areas of project/portfolio management, scope definition, process improvement and corporate training. Jamal Moustafaev has done work for private-sector companies and government organizations in Canada, US, Asia, Europe and Middle East.  Read Jamal’s Blog @ www.thinktankconsulting.ca

Jamal is an author of two very popular books: Delivering Exceptional Project Results: A Practical Guide to Project Selection, Scoping, Estimation and Management and Project Scope Management: A Practical Guide to Requirements for Engineering, Product, Construction, IT and Enterprise Projects.