The secrets to managing successful projects


There is growing interest in improving the way projects are managed in Papua New Guinea, according to Ian McMahon, Managing Director of the Australian Institute of Project Management. He outlines the key elements of a successful project.

Reasons for projects not meeting targets. Source: PMI Pulse of the Professions 2018

McMahon says all projects are constrained by time—they need to have a specific start and finish date.

‘They all have a specific thing that they are trying to create: a product or a service or a result,’ he tells Business Advantage PNG.

‘And, to do that, they all have a specific scope for what you are trying to achieve. With some exceptions, they all have a specific cost or budget.

‘We know that 15 per cent of total projects don’t deliver what they were supposed to.’

‘So, you are constrained by those things—scope, time and cost—to try and deliver a product, service or result to the quality that you want.

‘That is common, regardless of where you are in the world. It puts a lot of pressure on.’

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International performance

McMahon says international statistics indicate that there is greater scope for improvement in project management in most parts of the world.

He says 48 per cent of projects internationally do not meet their timeframes, and 43 per cent cost more than was originally budgeted.

‘We know that 15 per cent of total projects don’t deliver what they were supposed to.

The AIPM’s Ian McMahon Source: Australian Institute of Project Management

‘There are some really interesting stats to show that projects are challenged internationally—not just in PNG, or Australia or the US, or Europe. It is generic.’

Australia Awards

McMahon says the Institute is involved in teaching project management through the Australia Awards, the Australian Government-funded program of PNG fellowships and scholarships.

‘One of the big things that our participants are telling us through the Australia Awards program is that there is not a clear definition up front of what the project objectives are.

‘Or there is not a clear alignment of those project objectives to what the organisation direction is, or to the organisational priorities.

‘What that means is that you are starting doing projects that do not make sense; there is not that clear direction.

‘There is a growing realisation in PNG that there is a need to develop disciplines around project management.’

‘If you put in good practice and do a thorough business case, and you actually apply a process of communicating to all the relevant stakeholders and go through and identify what the opportunity is, what the strategic alignment is, what the organisational risks are, it will allow you to identify that you are choosing the right option from multiple options: the costs, the benefits, the risks.

‘Then you can choose the right course of action.


McMahon says there is a growing realisation in PNG that there is a need to develop disciplines around project management. He says this is occurring in government and in corporations, especially those with international owners.

‘There is a growing awareness, which is really good.

‘[People are realising] that they have to navigate to get the best value for investment; that they have to very clearly understand what they are doing and why.

‘Then they need to plan it and then manage that delivery, including how they report.

‘There is also a need to implement detailed planning.’

‘The PNG culture is very much back to family and relationships.

‘In the project world, they quite often don’t think broadly about who is going to be impacted, who should be involved in the project from the initiation, who does the planning, who they should communicate with and involve in the project’s delivery.

‘And they need to look at how they should interact with stakeholders.’


McMahon says there is also a need to implement detailed planning.

‘There is not that understanding of the paths that we need to go down.

‘[Unless you] break it down to that level, there is not that clarity about what resources are needed, whether it is people, or machinery, or other assets relevant for that particular task.

‘It also helps you understand the costings.’

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