Tanner James Blog

How to stop government projects failing

John Howarth

This blog won’t be for everyone.  If you’re not on a government project, it won’t be for you.  And if you’re working on, or responsible for, a government project that is a raging success, it probably isn’t for you either.  Everyone else can read on.

What I’m going to do is describe a hypothetical government project, and in doing so provide a simple answer to the question “how can I stop a government project from failing?”

A hypothetical government project

“Get going as soon as possible.”
“The Minister wants to see results on this one.”
Right then, you don’t need much more motivation than that to get cracking.

People are engaged left, right, and centre, and the executives aren’t shy about throwing money at this.
In fact, they’ve even engaged procurement specialists just to make sure other resources can be acquired as quickly as possible.
The project has an eclectic workforce:  public servants, a tier one firm and a number of contractors who represent a range of disciplines – enterprise architects, designers, agile specialists and change managers.

Right now everyone is busy pulling together PowerPoint decks that explain the journey ahead from their perspective.
Roles aren’t entirely clear, but everyone is positive, enthusiastic and pulling together as a team.
And working very long hours to make this happen!
“Encourage everyone to work together to pull the papers together by tomorrow.”
“Them and us isn’t the way we work around here.”
“To succeed we must get on with the job and not worry about the details.”
“Think about what the minister needs to know.”
“And use plain English, not technical jargon.”
“Communicate the essentials only.”

To get a major government project moving takes a great deal of energy.
Establish the team and crack on with it.
“Realistic people accept there is never time to plan properly.”
“Plans are fine when you know exactly what needs to be done, but we are in a discovery phase.”
And so it goes on.
Controls are not something anyone is interested in.
It is all about having a can-do attitude.
Is anyone interested in thinking deeply about challenges before initiating action?
That never seems to be the case.
Simple is best.

What’s the answer?

So you’ve read through all that, and it sounds all too familiar.  But have I delivered on my promise to provide a simple answer to the question “how can I stop a government project from failing?
Yes I have.  Just read about the hypothetical government project once more, but this time only read the first word of every sentence…

Want to know more about making your project a success?

If you would like to know more, please call me personally on 0407 404 688 or email me at .  I would be very happy to come to meet you, answer questions and provide further information.

What do you think?

Please feel free to comment on the blog itself or via Linked In.

Darrell Morris commented on 24-Aug-2017 03:47 PM
Cleverly put together; however, thinking without a clear understanding of what the project is to deliver is a waist of intellectual effort, and communication without a focus on the required output is just opinion. I suggest the way of stopping not only government projects from failing, is to ensure a clear understanding of the project's outcome. Explain the purpose of the project; the method to be project execution, and the endstate, that is , a method of measuring the project output has been achieved. (Purpose - method - endstate)
Anonymous commented on 25-Aug-2017 09:36 PM
Very clever, John.
Oh...and accurate too

Post a Comment

Captcha Image

Trackback Link
Post has no trackbacks.