The way you deliver projects has to change: Here’s why and how

Project failure seems to have joined death and taxes as the only constants in our lives.

Hardly a week goes by without a project somewhere in the world making the same mistakes others have made before it. And yet, projects are still the best way to deliver change and grow a business, but only when done well. And there are people out there with great delivery skills that do it really well.

But how many can you name? How many take the time to build great relationships? How many are role models for communication? How many utilise a range of skills to get to the detail required to provide certainty of delivery? How many are good at self-reflection and continual learning? How many of them are open to new ideas and take risks. And how many of them empower and trust a team of talented people to deliver? One? Two? Three? I’ll bet it’s not many. 

Now, how many can you name that have all the certificates and will tell you that they’re a project manager or (lately) a scrum master? 10? 20?

Most organisations are complicit in this mismatch. They develop their people in the wrong way (technical over emotional skills); hire using the wrong criteria (‘Have you got your PRINCE2/PMP/Agile?’ over ‘How do you communicate to someone who isn’t you?’); and for implementing structures that kill creativity, rather than encourage it (‘if you follow the process, you’ll be successful’).

Enough is enough. It’s time for organisations to demand better of themselves and those delivering projects. To stop listening to old fashioned views, implementing old-fashioned structures and buying old-fashioned approaches.

There’s so much to be learned from those that get it right. I’ve spent a significant amount of time looking at the way that organisations such as Spotify, Netflix, Amazon, Atlassian and others deliver their projects. I’ve captured that in a whitepaper that can be downloaded from here and offer up five recommendations that anyone can follow.

Everyone involved in delivery – from CEOs to those considering a career in project management – need to focus on the behaviours and skills required to change the way projects are delivered rather than repeating the rhetoric of the past and see it laid to waste by those in favour of quick-fix approaches, agile being the latest example.

The profession for its part needs to ditch the blame, arrogance and the endless process and build a new set of values and skills that empower great teams to deliver.

And at the heart of every project should be a good human.

Self-aware individuals who take the time to create an emotional connection and to build empathy with those why they are working with. Who can stand up and speak with passion, listen intently and ask for feedback so they can improve further.

These people will naturally seek smarter and better ways to do things. They don’t need to be told to ‘go agile’; they’ll use a mix of techniques and approaches that suit the initiative to be delivered. They’ll bring clarity to complexity and humour to mundanity.

These people will grow a movement that seeks to make organisations endlessly better. To accentuate what works, learn from mistakes, share the knowledge they have, challenge the status quo and be at the heart of cultural evolution. They’ll bring stability to flexibility and lead the organisations of the future.

So, what next for project delivery? It depends on how serious you are about getting value for the investment that you’ve made and whether – like Netflix, Spotify, Amazon and Atlassian – you have the courage to do things differently.

The whitepaper – Project Delivery, What Next? – can be downloaded from

Colin Ellis is an award-winning international keynote speaker and trainer. He spent 20 years leading large public and private sector government departments and now works with organisations to transform the way that they deliver projects, forever. You can find out more about him at