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CRM project failures and other big projects fail at an astonishing rate

Whether major technology installations, postmerger integrations, or new growth strategies, these efforts consume tremendous resources over months or even years. Yet as study after study has shown, they frequently deliver disappointing returns—by some estimates, in fact, well over half the time. And the toll they take is not just financial. These failures demoralize employees who have labored diligently to complete their share of the work. One middle manager at a top pharmaceutical company told us, “I’ve been on dozens of task teams in my career, and I’ve never actually seen one that produced a result.”

The problem is, the traditional approach to project management shifts the project teams’ focus away from the end result toward developing recommendations, new technologies, and partial solutions. The intent, of course, is to piece these together into a blueprint that will achieve the ultimate goal, but when a project involves many people working over an extended period of time, it’s very hard for managers planning it to predict all the activities and work streams that will be needed. Unless the end product is very well understood, as it is in highly technical engineering projects such as building an airplane, it’s almost inevitable that some things will be left off the plan. And even if all the right activities have been anticipated, they may turn out to be difficult, or even impossible, to knit together once they’re completed.

Managers expect they can plan for all the variables in a complex project in advance, but they can’t. Nobody is that smart or has that clear a crystal ball.

Read the entire article here on the Harvard Business Review