This Guest paper was first published on LinkedIn June 19, 2019.
It is copyright to Todd C. Williams and approved for re-publishing.
Published here January 2020.

Introduction | Different Measures of Success  | Periodicity Problems
Employee Motivation | Uninformed Transparency | Endless Customer Base | Learn More

Different Measures of Success

How often are government projects geared to make a profit? Not often. At the time I did these interviews, there was an inordinate number of for-profits government endeavors in the US with this is a goal. This was due to the push for a US-wide healthcare solution, known as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Herein lays one of the challenges.

When people who have never worked in a non-profit company are chartered to run one, their world is turned upside down. Their measures of success are no longer revenue, expense, cash flow, and profit, but rather the number of people covered, mouths fed, and roofs over heads. The for-profit world they left is far less compassionate and unforgiving of financial overruns.

This is not to say that public projects have less fiduciary responsibility, but the focus on the use of the money is different. Therefore, if a project to house homeless is 20% over budget, but it achieves its projected number of housed people, it is often considered successful. In the private sector, deficit spending, getting grants, raising bonds, etc. to meet that 20% overrun are normally not options. The project scope would likely be cut to achieve an acceptable positive result.

I recently visited one government agency that had a six million dollar overrun (35%) on a project that was delivered three years late (100%) and had over a thousand bugs on release. I asked, "Would we be sitting here if the system had no bugs?" The answer came quickly: "No." Apparently, the budget overrun and delays were not worthy of investigation — only the question of functionality.

Try that excuse with your private sector boss!

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