Why Projects Fail

pexels-photo-30557-croppedIn all of my project management classes, I start the session by asking participants why projects fail.

I joke with the group that it’s always interesting to start on a negative note, but I have an end in mind. I want participants to start thinking about the projects they’ve worked on in the past. I want them to start thinking about how things could have gone better. Most of all, I want them to lay the groundwork for the material we cover over the next few hours.

It’s a fun activity, and often I mix in a few jokes about the responses and generally make the case for having a common framework that everyone can rally around. That framework, of course, is project management.

In almost every class, however, the same 5-10 things come up during this activity in some form or another. This happens so regularly, that I’m surprised when one of these items doesn’t make the list, and then unsurprised when it surfaces later in the class.

I’m sharing these so you can get a head start. Whether you’re a project manager, a key stakeholder, a supervisor or manager, these are the reasons that come up most often in my classes.

Why Projects Fail:

  • Lack of communication about work status, changes, plans
  • No clear purpose, no clear end in mind
  • Lack of resources, or awareness of resources
  • Lack of buy-in from those affected
  • Project changes mid stream
  • Lack of buy-in from senior leaders
  • Poor planning
  • No timelines
  • No accountability
  • Unclear project team roles/Wrong people in wrong roles

And the biggest of all…

  • A lack of consistent support for the people managing the project

The solutions to these challenges aren’t easy. It takes work to get everyone on the same page, even with a solid, tested, project management framework. You will have to challenge the status quo, and people will resist change.

But it’s worth it!

So I’ll end with the same call to action I close my class with.

Start NOW. Because,

“A year from now, you will wish you had started today” – Karen Lamb



2 thoughts

  1. What about if say you planned 100 units of a product X, but at the end you produced 120 units; is this a failure as well???


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