Published in CIO Asia – Enter the Dragon: The year of project success

Gong Xi Fa Cai!

In these first weeks of the Chinese New Year (western New Year has past, Thai and the rest of the Mekong will celebrate theirs in April), I decided to look at the top insights from the Science and Art of projects, change and innovation.

In keeping with the Eight-fold Path to Success, my top eight are:

  1. Intent is Clear: Burning Platforms for change are about commitment to change (it’s not worth going back), not about creating a fear of change, says Daryl Conner the man behind the burning platform metaphor.
  2. Projects Support Strategy: False assumptions are dangerous. Assuming all things are equal (between projects) is a prime source of project failure. The ground that each project needs to cover in the business varies from project to project.
  3. Motivation is Aligned: Neuroscience shows that we respond to fear five times more easily than things that are attractive to us…. People perform worse when they fear. This affects project teams, underpins ‘resistance’ and reduces innovation and growth. Check out the Neuroleadership Institute at
  • Balance is Dynamic Change: Growth strategies require different leadership teams than transformation strategies – team profile is a leading indicator of strategic (and project) success or failure, finds Professor Peter Robertson.
  • Operational Policies Affect Results: One in six IT projects fail costing 200-400 percent more than expected. Measuring variation to cost and schedule is not enough. Budgets are chronically under-estimated, according to Alex Budzier at Oxford (see also Harvard Business Review Sept 2011).
  • Business Cases are Robust: Value is created by a portfolio of projects, not by a project on its own. At the portfolio (or business investment) level, systemic write-off from project failure may cost Asian businesses over US$2 billion in 2012. Manage the portfolio for value against business key performance indicators, not simply project variations on time and cost.
  • Results Delivery Process is Reliable: Best practices project management differentiates between simple, complex, messy and wicked projects as they require different methodologies (and have different risk profiles and levels of investment).
  • Flow Supports Change: Communication across languages is one of the big challenges of Asia. Poor communication leads to poor relationships and connections. It’s obvious yet few organisations consciously invest in language skills as part of their project teams. Chinpass ( has developed a 72-hour programme to learn Chinese and has received awards from the French government for their work.

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