why projects fail - Invensis Learning

As project practitioners have you ever come across a situation where projects are disorganized, out of control, and have a sense of doom and failure? Research, it shows that 31% of projects will be canceled before completion and 52% of projects cost 189% of their original estimates. Have you witnessed work patterns where teams work in silos and nobody knows what the other team member is doing? There are many such scenarios that point towards ‘danger’ and project failure. Industry research suggests that 25% of technology projects fail outright and 50% need massive reworking by the time they’ve finished. In this article, we will learn about various signs that will help you understand “Why Projects Fail”.

Why Do Projects Fail?

In any organization and any project, project failure will happen. There’s a variety of explanations for the failure. Often it is beyond the reach of a project manager and members of the team. Failure is also controllable. Any aspects have in common with abandoned projects and the people involved in the loss. In both cases, prescriptions are issued for “fast fixes” that usually prove unsuccessful and can often cause catastrophic side effects.

We’ll discuss 7 root causes of project delay/failure to understand “Why Projects Fail”. Knowing these will help you train for your next role as a PM and help avoid costly mistakes:

1. Poor Arrangement

If you have a sound vision of what you’re planning to do, it will help in advance as far as possible. Otherwise, without a paddle, you might catch yourself swimming away. At the start, you need to understand what project success looks like, don’t lose concentration. Therefore, if you don’t have a good vision at the initial point of the process, you risk making it more challenging for yourself. Have a meeting with stakeholders, even if it is long, to address their views on cost, time, and consistency. Know how you can conduct your duties and fulfill the needs of all of you.

2. Lack of Effective Communication

90% of the project involves communicating with team members, stakeholders, and customers. So, effective communication is a key trait for project managers. If the information does not flow effectively across all management levels, this will lead to unforeseen outcomes. Everyone has to be on the corresponding side, from the staff to senior management and consumers, and everybody should feel relaxed with voicing feedback or voicing concerns. Effective communication would ensure the efficiency and proper function of the team in a business-critical project.

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3. Poor Documentation and Tracking

That is the project manager’s responsibility. Watching milestones is how you’ll know if you’re achieving standards. Proper tracking and reporting help the PM to determine that it needs additional money to finish a project on schedule.

4. Overcoming Fear

Fear makes members of the team feel the need to defend their rights. We aren’t going to be transparent while we feel the need to hide. Therefore, it would stifle the conversation.

Worse still, our conversation may be a debate about whether we are right and why others are wrong. The consequence is letter writing on the positions and being unable to solve even fundamental problems.

But still, chat about what’s right, and bring solutions to the table if you see the tension on your project erupting. Then, a project manager concentrates on fixing the problems that are causing fear among team members due to various circumstances.

5. A Dearth of Trained Professionals

One of the important reasons a project struggles is that the project manager or team members lack the necessary training in project management best practices. Many people fall into the role of a project manager; this is not something that they specifically embarked on at the outset of their career. There are also many people who feel that being able to handle a project is an ability you either possess or don’t. Regardless of how much of a strong leader you are, the right preparation is essential to provide successful project management skills, just as it is in almost any profession.

6. Inexperienced Project Managers

There is a lot of pressure on a project manager. You have to appoint individuals to positions in management that balance knowledge and experience. In certain situations, and maybe more frequently than not, the assignments are handled by newcomers. They may handle tasks very well, but the trick is to keep them at a stage where they can be successful. If not, you’re setting them up for disappointment.

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7. Overlooking Project Warning Symbols

Last but not the least, if you ignore all of the early signals that your project is deviating from its original scope, then you’re pretty much sure to face more significant issues later on. For instance, if you feel you have a budget overrun, you shouldn’t just expect that the problem will go away. Alternatively, you need to bring a schedule into motion to speed up some processes, or you need to speak to the partners to handle additional work and, if possible, push back the timeline with any new requirements or changes to the project scope.

Signs Showing “Why Projects Fail”

Signs of project failure - Why Projects Fail - Invensis Learning

1. Timelines

As a project manager, you might have estimated timelines with some buffer (in case of slippages). However, there are always some surprises during implementation.

The slippages could be both authentic and illegitimate. Examples of authentic slippages are the new software not working as expected, or the client coming up with a new set of requirements after the first beta release.

Examples of illegitimate slippages are: a team not contributing as per timelines, or software expiring because you forgot the renewal date. Hence, you might need to assess which one is an authentic slippage and which one is not, and an action plan needs to be devised based on the analysis. For authentic cases, it is best to raise a red flag, stating to the client and higher management that you might miss the estimated deadline. For illegitimate slippages, an action plan needs to be taken internally or it is necessary to check with your superiors. However, to reiterate again – never sit on an issue. Solve it at your level or escalate it and make it heard.

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2. Cost

The cost estimate for a project is subject to change. Hence, make a weekly or fortnightly review as the project progresses to gauge if you are still spending at the estimated rate or if there is an overshoot.

In the case of a software project, it is often the case that the development or cost overshoots the per feature cost, which causes project failure. Scope creep that can escalate costs is another danger to watch out for.

One of the proactive solutions is that before sealing the deal, you could get buy-in or a fixed rate for any new features that are requested during the implementation time. This helps in building transparency.

3. Individuals

The involvement of individuals is the most important factor in any project’s success or failure. The synergy of individuals as a team, involving management, and all members, could do wonders – deliverables on time, no surprise issues, and resolution of obstacles. However, a minor discord among the team would reverse all this.

For example, if you need people who are experts on Ruby on Rails for a project, and could only manage to get freshers, as a project manager, you would try to put pressure on them to deliver; however, being new to the industry, the juniors may possibly commit mistakes. Such a situation would lead to a divide between a manager and a team, disconnecting them, and leading to larger issues. This could ultimately result in delayed project delivery or loss of business.

Synergy across the teams is also quite important. For example, your team builds the code and the testing has to be done in a separate team. Therefore, it is essential to build a good rapport across organizations for smoother and on-time delivery of projects.

4. Goals

Another vital area for any project is to have clearly defined goals. You need to be sure that even the junior members of the team are well aware of where this project is heading, or what this project would achieve. The team also needs to know how the particular client is helpful to the firm, the repercussions if you fail to deliver, and what it means when you say that a successful project delivery has happened.

As a project manager, you need to have the foresight and look for issues before they occur. Be clear on communication, adaptive to changes, and ready to face challenges. That would be vital for project success. One must understand “Why Projects Fail” to make sure that their project never does.

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Knowing the root causes of your project failure from the beginning will significantly increase your potential for success. The easiest way to discover if your project is heading towards failure is by analyzing the root causes in a holistic manner. Executing a monthly assessment of how well the team is fulfilling the project requirements gives you an overall idea of what is happening in your project.

Know more about project management best practices through Invensis Learning’s Project Management certification training on PMP Certification Training, CAPM Certification Training Course, Prince2 Course Online, Project Management Fundamentals, P3O, and MSP. We are a trusted training partner for Fortune 500 companies and Government institutions globally.

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Lucy Brown has many years of experience in the project management domain and has helped many organizations across the Asia Pacific region. Her excellent coordinating capabilities, both inside and outside the organization, ensures that all projects are completed on time, adhering to clients' requirements. She possesses extensive expertise in developing project scope, objectives, and coordinating efforts with other teams in completing a project. As a project management practitioner, she also possesses domain proficiency in Project Management best practices in PMP and Change Management. Lucy is involved in creating a robust project plan and keep tabs on the project throughout its lifecycle. She provides unmatched value and customized services to clients and has helped them to achieve tremendous ROI.


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