Top three reasons your projects fail

Top three reasons your projects fail

Top three reasons your projects fail.

The organizations, whether large or small suffer immensely from projects failing. Despite how well the traditional project management and the PMBOK defined the significance of triple constraints, there are a number of projects that either fail badly or barely make it to the wire with a lot of revisions on timelines.There seems to be a trend and a bad trend for such failing projects. These reasons are unfortunately true for smaller and less complex projects too.

  1. Poor or no planning: No one can deny that proper planning always works. This is a very neglected piece although a very important piece of project phases. This comes first in the project phases and the psychology or the culture of most teams(especially in the technical area) is such that, this consumes most of the time and that this is a waste of time.The team heads in the direction of what they call ‘real’ work with incomplete or no planning. That is inviting chaos right there. When the teams skip initiation, requirements, design phases and head straight into the development phase, every step in the way is discovering nuances that are much more major and consume more time to resolve than the time the team spends in planning out the project. Building at least a baseline plan is necessary and need to be accounted for before the real work kicks in.
  2. Underestimating: Especially with schedule driven projects, when the project is going in a fast paced mode, it is very easy to underestimate the time it takes to complete a task or a phase. If you have both poor planning and also underestimate the project work, then you are dumped right there. And there is a perception that adding resources, applying schedule compression techniques will bring success right away. But remember, they are all coming with a risk. And that needs to be weighed in. For example, adding resources will incur more time to do the interviews, hire and train them.
  3. Unclear role delineations: On the outside, it seems so obvious that it is very easy to be able to define roles clearly. But, the sad part is that this is a common issue regardless of the size of the organization. Most of the times, even organizational charts are missing, and everyone is unclear of their own responsibilities. Each person assumes that the other person is doing a particular task and that puts the project timelines at risk instantly. And the result of which will be scrambling to get the right resources assigned and also calling in more meetings than necessary to address some basic questions.

If those top three reasons are considered valuable by the leadership team, then the rest of the issues are going to be the traditional project management issues and would not call for disaster and chaos at every phase of project management life cycle.

Hopefully, organizations pay close attention to these easily addressable, time saving, money saving ideas that not only increase the success rate of the projects but also the efficiency.


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14 thoughts on “Top three reasons your projects fail

  1. As to my experience, the main reason for projects’ failure are lack of “Clear Requirement Specifications” from the client side and “Unattainable Plan and Schedule” from the contractors’ side. Most projects that I have witnessed have failed to meet deadlines and quality requirements that are set beforehand. However, the contractors still win other contracts as there is no transparent evaluation criteria for specialized fields of works. I have come across a contract that clearly states that it should be completed in 10 months and still in its 8th year it is not yet commissioned. Moreover, the construction industry has become very much susceptible and open for corruption. This has created difficulties for ethics and professionalism and hence realistic contractors are being driven out of the field as they lost the competitive edge to function in such a fraudulent environment.

    1. Yes, the requirement gaps and poor planning all come under the same category which seems to be the broader yet most common reason for project failures from my experience.

  2. The three main reasons according to John Kotter why projects fail:

    1: no urgency. Where there is no real reason why the project should be done. Urgency is the motor which drives the project, always and always.
    2: no strong coalition. Stakeholders are not committed.
    3: no vision. No one knows where the project is heading.

    These simple reasons deliver more than 80% of success. The rest is just work!

    1. Yes #2 and #3 are pretty much the drivers common to most projects. But for #1, it is not always true, sometimes, urgency creates non-productive chaos, so need to exercise balance on how to create the sense of urgency and to what extent.

  3. Well run projects by experienced PMs in mature organizations do not suffer from 1. and 2 – they are the causes only for green managers or new/inexperienced project teams. However, No. 2 is a problem for competitive bids, especially FFP (Firm-Fixed-Price) contracts, because PMs want to win, bid skinny, and have little contingency for inevitable technical and management problems . Real Projects fail because (1) they may require the development and production of complex systems/products with advanced technology that the PM/team has never done before, so they do not know either the best processes or the potential pitfalls, or (2) they bid a very success oriented schedule that has very little slack, and when they fall behind, start taking shortcuts, which leads to disaster. In my former career, I was have responsible for managing over 200 advanced technology hardware/software space contracts at the world’s largest defense contractor, for over 40 years, and I have seen it all.

    1. Yes Paul, agree on #1 and #2, but still quite a challenge in many orgs, regardless of the size/ complexity of the project. Overall, the probability is higher with larger complex programs that has no to less process.

  4. Thank you very good artical , whoever I wounder who will be responsible for poor planning or underestimation , if the PM was not givin enough time to plan or a project aggressive timeline was enforced on him , who is responsible if the project fails. the PM or the leadership
    Thank you

    1. No, the PM is not responsible alone for any project failure. PM is the one that sits in the front seat and drives the project and does fill all the holes very diligently, but never that one person that is accountable/responsible for any project failures.

  5. Very good post. Thanks for sharing.
    I would like to reinforce the #3. Delegation and empowerment. It´s necessary to clarify bothto the project team. It´s been common to hear something like this: I know my roles, but not my delegation, or how empowered I am to take my necessary responsabilities.

  6. Please let me speak from the perspectives of a program manager who has handled PreFEED, FEED and EPC. The reasons vary depending on the stage of the project. For PreFEED and FEED, reasons 1 and 2 do not have much of an impact but reason 3 surely does. If the owner/s hold everything close to their chest and don’t share the secrets of the project like state of funding, the plans for marketing the product, and their desired mode of EPC contract, with the project management team, there is trouble. It happened to me on my last project before my retirement and I am still sore about it. It is sad that the owner/s do not like PM’s input in the commercial decisions at this stage.
    Reasons 1 and 2 definitely enter into the picture when EPC starts and a savvy Owners’ PM can control them easily, with trust from the owner/s.

    1. I agree with you Dilip. The reasons here were thought of a top down approach. If there are any new topics you like to read, let me know. thanks


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