If you’ve ever been part of a project that failed, you’ve experienced some of the scenarios below. Years ago, I was hired into a company primarily to recover troubled projects. It was then that I began to study what made projects succeed, and what made others fail. I’ve looked at a cross-section of project environments, and over time have seen certain scenarios repeat themselves. There are all kinds of research as to why projects fail; Gardner Group and some other organizations track this all the time, but the following reasons are from my own experience.
- Team Conflict. When things start going wrong, emotions begin to rise. Team members start getting into conflicts, and generally everyone is at their worst. Conflict is actually the cause of some projects getting derailed. If you think of sports teams, bands or any situation where people work together, if interpersonal conflicts are not the cause of failure, they certainly amplify and accelerate it.
- Us versus Them Mentality. We have all seen where different departments don’t get along. Perhaps the marketing team doesn’t like the IT team, or marketing and sales are competing and behaving badly. It doesn’t matter what the scenario is. When people stake their territory and fight for their rights, problems ensue.
- Misaligned Resources. A misaligned resource is someone you’ve put into a role they are not trained or experienced for. Not only can they not do it, they don’t even want to do it. If your people are not set up for success then typically they will not do what they don’t want to do. We do what we love doing, what we know how to do. Misaligned resources won’t get things done on time, which can lead to failure.
- Switching Priorities. Companies change priorities regularly, more so today than ever. If those priorities are not communicated to your team or organization, and if project plans are not rebaselined accordingly, project failure is likely. Maybe critical team members were taken away or the scope was cut, and people are still working off a prior version of the project plan. Perhaps the budget gets shifted to another project. If you do go back and use good project management principles and rebaseline to the new priorities, then it won’t be considered a failed project.
- Uncontrolled Scope. Changing priorities often can result in the scope getting out of control. Maybe people are committing to things outside what the change control board has approved. That’s why it’s critical to bring those scope requests to the change control board and let them handle those decisions. Your stakeholders can then analyze and make decisions based on what company needs are.
If you found these tips from Jennifer Whitt, PMP of value and are a PMP looking to earn PMI PDUs, you might be interested in her self-paced, downloadable courses at PDUs2Go.com.
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