The arguments, analysis and observations in this paper are based on 10 years of research with partners in the European and US aerospace and defence industries. During this period the authors were part of a team of researchers at Bristol UWE, Southampton University and Rolls-Royce PLC, who were seeking to develop a new methodology and tool set for project management, particularly aimed at large aerospace projects.
The research was motivated by the seemingly ubiquitous reality of project failure, with large engineering projects apparently always late and over budget. Here we focus on aerospace and defence, but the problems are generic across all branches of engineering. In our view aerospace and defence have more excuses than most, because not only are the projects huge, they are also globally distributed and highly complex.
As our work progressed a fundamental conundrum emerged. As we talked to project managers and assessed the teams that were undertaking the projects it became obvious that they were well educated, intelligent, highly motivated and very capable people. So why were so many projects going wrong? Soon we could see that projects were going wrong in all sectors and in many different countries. So obviously the problems were not to do with incompetence, as they clearly were so generic. Our ultimate finding has been that the very technology available for managing projects today is inadequate. As we argue below, modern, complex projects cannot be planned and executed using 50-year-old project management tools.
The paper tells the story of what’s wrong with the current technology and how and why it needs to change. The authors are well aware that there are also cultural problems in project management, but in fact many of these derive from the use of inadequate tools.
Many of the insights and arguments developed here have come from discussions with... [continues]
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