Project Smart ~ Exploring trends and developments in project management today

Calendar iconNot recorded
Adobe PDF icon

Reasons Why Projects Fail

~ By Tom Carlos

Businessman in a black suit holding up a white sign reading failed

In a perfect world every project would be "on time and within budget." But reality (especially the proven statistics) tells a very different story. It's not uncommon for projects to fail. Even if the budget and schedule are met, one must ask "did the project deliver the results and quality we expected?" True project success must be evaluated on all three components. Otherwise, a project could be considered a "failure."

Have you ever seen a situation where projects begin to show signs of disorganisation, appear out of control, and have a sense of doom and failure? Have you witnessed settings where everyone works in a silo and no one seems to know what the other team member is doing? What about team members who live by the creed "I'll do my part (as I see fit) and after that, it's their problem." Even worse is when team members resort to finger-pointing. Situations similar to these scenarios point to a sign that reads "danger." And if you read the fine print under the word "danger" it reads, "your project needs to be brought under control or else it could fail."

When projects begin to show signs of stress and failure, everyone looks to the project manager for answers. It may seem unfair that the burden of doom falls upon a single individual. But this is the reason why you chose to manage projects for a living! You've been trained to recognise and deal with these types of situations.

There are many reasons why projects (both simple and complex) fail; the number of reasons can be infinite. However, if we apply the 80/20 rule the most common reasons for failure can be found in the following list:

Poorly managedUndefined objectives and goalsLack of management commitment
Lack of a solid project planLack of user inputLack of organisational support
Centralised proactive management initiatives to combat project riskEnterprise management of budget resourcesProvides universal templates and documentation
Poorly defined roles and responsibilitiesInadequate or vague requirementsStakeholder conflict
Team weaknessesUnrealistic timeframes and tasksCompeting priorities
Poor communicationInsufficient resources (funding and personnel)Business politics
Overruns of schedule and costEstimates for cost and schedule are erroneousLack of prioritisation and project portfolio management
Scope creepNo change control processMeeting end user expectations
Ignoring project warning signsInadequate testing processesBad decisions

Even with the best of intentions or solid plans, project can go awry if they are not managed properly. All too often, mishaps can occur (and usually do). This is when the project manager must recognise a warning sign and take action. If you understand the difference between symptoms and problems and can spot warning signs of project failure, your training will help you take steps to right the ship before it keels over. Yes, it's the project manager's responsibility to correct the listing no one else. In addition to applying the processes and principles taught in project management class, you can also use your personal work skills of communication, management, leadership, conflict resolution, and diplomacy to take corrective action.

During the course of managing a project, the project manager must monitor activities (and distractions) from many sources and directions. Complacency can easily set in. When this happens, the process of "monitoring" breaks down. This is why the project manager must remain in control of a project and be aware of any activity which presents a risk of project failure. Yes, this is why "you are paid the big bucks."


Tom Carlos has over 20 years of cumulative experience in business, technical, and training environments. He is a Certified Project Management Professional (PMP) and member of the Sacramento Valley PMI Chapter. For other articles on similar subject, you can visit Thomas Carlos Consulting or contact him at tom@carlosconsulting.com


Comments

Be the first to comment on this article.

Add a comment



(never displayed)



 
1500
Enter the word table backwards.
Notify me of new comments via email.
Remember my form inputs on this computer.

Extreme Project Management

The running back dives for the first down with the defender on his back

Three war room strategies to try when you need to bring life back to a dead project, or save an engagement that is on the brink of disaster.

Project Planning Essentials

Tablet computer with project manager app and documents with Gantt and financial charts

Planning a project requires putting a series of tasks in order and determining dependencies between them. In practice it's never so straightforward.

How to Become a Project Manager

Senior lecturer in front of his class

If you're new to project management don't be bamboozled by all the jargon. This article sets out the skills needed to become a competent project manager.

My Budget is 10% Over, Now What?

10 percent red wood sign with golden background

Suffering a budget overrun? Here's three key things you can do mid-stream on a project to help get the budget back in line with the original plan.

PROJECT SMART is the project management resource that helps managers at all levels improve their performance. We provide an important knowledge base for those involved in managing projects of all kinds. With weekly exclusive updates, we keep you in touch with the latest project management thinking.

WE ARE CONNECTED ~ Follow us on social media to get regular updates and opinion on what's happening in the world of project management.


Latest Comments

John Tichaona Muhonde commented on…
How to Avoid Project Burnout
- Wed 24 August 5:15pm

Vaska Ramanska commented on…
How to Report Status on a Project
- Sun 7 August 11:23am

Duncan commented on…
PMP vs. PRINCE2 Certificates
- Sat 6 August 11:36am

Latest tweets

General Project Management • Re: Which are the best learning resources to prepare for PMP exam? https://t.co/AlZd7X6vse #pm #projectsmart about 1 day ago

General Project Management • Which are the best learning resources to prepare for PMP exam? https://t.co/kcJEdQZUmL #pm #projectsmart about 1 day ago

General Project Management • Re: PRINCE2 - Studying and Preparing for Practitioner Exam https://t.co/PI18HeZwVR #pm #projectsmart about 1 day ago