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 (1)

Topic: Reasons Why Projects Fail
4/5 (1)
Gravatar
Full StarFull StarFull StarFull StarEmpty Star
17th October 2017 8:47pm
Keith Rickman (Engomi) says...
I like the message from this article but I didn't see a mention of the word risk. It seems to me that many projects fail because there is no risk management process as an integral part of the project management process. I am not surprised because I have been on too many projects where the risk log is created at the start of the project and then quietly parked, never to be seen again. Then guess what - a perfectly predictable situation arises which no one knows how to react to.

It was in the risk log but no risk response was created so the predictable outcome is a less than optimal project. My own feeling based on my experience is that you ignore risk management in a project at your peril. Comments welcomed.

Add a comment



(never displayed)



 
2000
Out of 90, 76 or 12, which is the largest?
Notify me of new comments via email.
Remember my form inputs on this computer.

Top Three Causes of Project Failure

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

The top three causes of project failure, which if addressed will greatly increase the chances of project success.

How to Deliver Project Status

Close-up of a businessman's hand with a gilded pen writing a document

This article recommendations how to deliver project status to management and the project team that you will hopefully find to be very effective.

Resolving Project Team Conflicts

Two women having an argument in an office

Conflicts on project teams are a fact of life! Only on rare occasions do conflicts not arise. As project manager you must manage these conflicts.

12 Tips for Accurate Project Estimating

Money and a calculator

Using a set of proactive estimating techniques to scope, plan and constrain your project conditions can dramatically improve your estimating practices.

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

Janice Paris commented on…
Better Coaching Using the GROW Model
- Fri 12 October 10:33pm

Julius commented on…
Better Coaching Using the GROW Model
- Thu 11 October 5:44am

Arianne Jane commented on…
Better Coaching Using the GROW Model
- Fri 5 October 10:04am

Latest tweets

General Project Management • Re: Which Project Phase is HyperCare? https://t.co/nqDy8fAK7q about 8 days ago

General Project Management • Which Project Phase is HyperCare? https://t.co/VpfYmrTcJS about 8 days ago

General Project Management • Advice on project management system with built-in CRM capabilities https://t.co/FX3hPKCxsu about 15 days ago