5 Reasons Why Projects Fail

by Jennifer Bridges, PMP (formerly, Jennifer Whitt)

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.

  1. Unaligned Expectations. Even though expectations have been set and agreed upon, it is still possible for people to leave a meeting, return to their respective organizations and talk about how they don’t agree. Even if they’ve agreed on paper, organizations, groups or teams that don’t have the same expectations will unconsciously start doing what they really want to do, which inevitably causes conflict.
  2. Implementing before the Project is Approved or Baselined. It’s quite common for a company to go ahead with project execution before official approval. Maybe they want to be first to market. Maybe the project fills a need in or outside the organization and the team members have enough experience to know what’s supposed to be done. Everybody starts running down the road before the budget or baseline plan has been approved, and doing things that end up not being approved or even budgeted. Maybe resources don’t get approved and work is done that is outside the scope of the project, causing problems down the road.
  3. Inexperienced or Untrained Resources. We all are fighting for resources and trying to do more with less. It’s not uncommon, therefore, to have inexperienced or untrained resources on your team. That’s just something we have to deal with today. When we do not estimate skill levels appropriately, we get into trouble. Maybe you used a past project to estimate how long it will take a certain resource to produce a task or deliverable. Well, if you put a new resource in place that doesn’t have the same experience or skill set as the previous one, they are probably not going to accomplish it in the same time. Not accurately estimating your resource’s capabilities sets that person up for failure, as well as the project.
  4. Inadequate Systems. An example of this is a project with global or remote team members that needs but doesn’t have a place to collaborate and update online in realtime. If such a system is not adequate for realtime communication or work, tasks are not going to be updated, nor will people be informed appropriately.
  5. Inaccessible Systems. This refers more specifically to software, spreadsheets, tools and templates not being accessible to critical resources on your projects. Maybe they can’t view them to even know what task they are responsible for, what deliverables they are to be producing by when.

If you found these tips from Jennifer Bridges, PMP (formerly, Jennifer Whitt) 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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