05 | 16

PMI Pulse of the Profession 2016

Every year since 2012, the Project Management Institute publishes a study they call “The Pulse of the Profession.” This purpose of this study is to track the state of project management as a practice and the effectiveness of the practitioners, that is, us.

PMI President and CEO Mark A. Langley included this ominous paragraph in his introduction to the 2016 study:

“As we reviewed this year’s Pulse of the Profession® data, we were hoping to see improvement over last year’s results. Instead, we saw declines in many of the success factors we track. Even more concerning, the percentage of projects meeting their goals—which had been flat for the past four years—took a significant dip.”

Here are the data to which he is referring:

In 2016, only 62% of projects met their original goals/business intent, down from 64% in 2015.

Less than half of organizations report high alignment of projects to organizational strategy, a number that has been fairly constant for the past three years. And, organizations report that, compared to last year, fewer of their projects are strategic initiatives—that is, projects designed to achieve formulated strategy (an average of 48 percent of projects, down from 54 percent in 2015).

We see US$122 million wasted for every US$1 billion invested due to poor project performance, a 12 percent increase over last year.


  • Percentage of projects that met their original goals/business intent? Down.
  • Percentage of projects completed within their original budget? Down.
  • Percentage of projects completed on time? Down.
  • Percentage of projects that experienced scope creep? Up.
  • Percentage of failed projects whose budgeted funds were lost? Dramatically up.
  • Percentage of projects deemed a failure? Up.

Why should you care about any of this? Here are a few reasons:

Studies like this provide a baseline with which to compare our own organizational performance. These data lead us to ask questions like, “How many of our projects met their original goals and business intent? Did 16% of our projects really fail? If so, what caused the failure? Did we also get worse at scope, schedule, and budget management?”

All of these questions, in turn, lead us to ask …

Why are we getting worse at project management?

This PMI study cites the weak project management culture present in many organizations where investing in leadership and business skills development in project managers are low priorities. But, there is a glimmer of hope.

71% of projects meet original goals and business intent when project management culture is a high priority, whereas just 52% of projects meet original goals and business intent when project management culture is a low priority. So the data still support that organizations are better off when project management is a key discipline.

What should you do as an executive or a leader? Get to know your project managers. Reflect on their strengths in the areas of technical, business, and leadership skills. Make plans to build those project managers up in areas where they are weak. And above all, be a net contributor, a promoter, a champion of project management in your organization. It will only strengthen your ability to realize your business strategy. And that is what we all want.