Feasibility and Justification
Many of the people interviewed raised concerns about the feasibility of projects undertaken by the company in the first place. "Sometimes it seems that we take on projects just to prove that we can, and sometimes the projects are initiated by a simple 'Wouldn't it be cool if we could do this ...'" mentioned one of the department directors during an interview.
"There is resistance to the fair assessment of project feasibility"
"Unlikely to get $100K to conduct a feasibility study of a $100 mil project"
"We are very quick to jump to solutions"
"Sometimes an executive pet project will inexplicably go ahead"
"When approving projects, power should not equal to approval. This kills good
Budgets and Timelines
Another interesting aspect was discovered during the assessment phase: the perceptions of whether the projects were on time and on budget were quite different between the senior management and the general project team members. Specifically, both department heads and executives had trouble answering the following question: "Do you feel that your projects are mostly delivered on time and on budget?" Analysis of freestyle comments, however, allowed us to understand the reasons behind this. It appears that since cost and time commitments were typically not properly recorded or tracked, it was very difficult for people not involved in the projects directly (i.e. department directors and senior executives) to be aware of their status.
"Cost overruns are typically not viewed as too much of an issue" (Accountability)
"If you don't have a plan, it is very difficult to be accountable" (Accountability)
"How can you know whether you are on time or not if we don't document anything?" (Budgets and Timelines)
"We have historical data, but unrealistic timelines are still imposed" (Estimation)
"We artificially decrease/hide costs in order to get approval" (Estimation)
"Sometimes we have to hide costs in contingency" (Estimation)
We also discovered that underestimation was an issue at the company due either to direct pressure applied from above, or overly optimistic forecasts created sometimes to please the management of the company, or to obtain approval on projects that would not have been approved otherwise.