Event Report - Critical success factors for successful project management in public industries

Event Report – Critical success factors for successful project management in public industries, Bern, Thursday 6 April 2017

Author: Pete Cowan, PMP

Dear Readers,

This Event was one of the first ever – if not THE first ever – to be hosted in Bern, and from start to finish it was a great success. The venue was Pricewaterhouse Coopers directly above the main Bern Railway Station, which was quite apt really since the presenters – Marc Lahmann (on left of photo) and Peter Keiser – are employees of PwC.


There were between 25 to 30 attendees and I was surprised to note that it was almost exclusively a male turn-out. Whether that was to do with the venue, the topic, the date, or just pure randomness, I guess we’ll never know.

The presenters did a great job in covering such a wide topic inside 90 minutes, and their references to projects which they had experience in – both successes and failures – really helped to bring the subject to life. The key message was that projects do succeed and fail in both the private and public world, yet our understanding of the different parameters which apply to the environment of Public Projects can often make the difference between success and failure.

There were many things to take away from the event but these things stick in my mind:

  • most Project Managers have little exposure to dealing with uncertainty and complexity; therefore they make assumptions about risk which are generally too optimistic.
  • sometimes a project can be deemed a success from a “Project Management” point of view e.g. ahead of time, e.g. below budget, yet the actual project itself can turn out to be a failure e.g. public not using the infrastructure. One striking example being the Los Angeles Metro system.
  • According to one measure, 59% of retails projects are a success whereas only 18% of government projects are successful!
  • if a PM succeeds in a public project he is often presented with a reduced budget and fewer resources for his next project! Incentive to fail?

I think that the subject of Complexity and Uncertainty – presented as one of the main reasons for project failure - could be addressed very well in a one-day workshop or seminar, allowing interested participants to dive deeper into the subject matter. This could give participants the chance to exchange their experiences and challenges with fellow PMs whilst at the same time learning about tools and methods for dealing with Complexity and Uncertainty. I will ask the PMI Chapter to assess whether there would be sufficient demand for such a workshop. Independently of that, I would recommend that we repeat this Event in a later year so that more Members can benefit from the crucial messages imparted by the Speakers.

Many thanks to Marc Lahmann and Peter Keiser of PwC and also to the organisers of the event, Irina, Sandra and Larissa.

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See you at a future event!

Best Regards, 

Pete Cowan

Copy Editor