Are you a project manager or the member of a project team? While the project manager is the leader of your team, it is the responsibility of every team member to make a success of the project itself. To help ensure that your project will make it over the finish line with flying colors, learn the ten biggest reasons why projects fail in the first place.

What is Failure?

This is an easy one. For most people on a project team or in charge of one, failure can be defined as not closing the project according to its initial parameters. What are those parameters? Well, they could be related to any number of things including:

  • Project is over budget
  • Project is completed behind schedule
  • Project lacked necessary resources

Could these potential failures be avoided? In a word, yes. But, in order to figure out how, it is necessary to investigate all of the reasons why projects fail.

10 Reasons Projects Fail

Failure leaves a bad taste in everyone’s mouth. The worst thing to do is play the blame game. It solves nothing. A more constructive approach would be to discover where the breakdown occurred and decide what can be done to prevent it in the future.

  1. Objectives are vague – If no one knows what they are supposed to be accomplishing with the project, no one will know when they have completed it. There will be more questions than actionable items.
  2. No shared agreements about roles and responsibilities – Who is in charge of the project? Who is delegating the duties? When roles are not clearly defined it is easier to ignore a request that you don’t want to fulfill.
  3. Resources are not available for the project – It is easier to begin with the number of people you need to handle the objectives for each phase of the project. Later on, additional resources could already be delegated to other assignments, leaving you shorthanded.
  4. Not enough time to complete objectives – While it is great to think ambitiously when it comes to a timetable, the team’s hands are tied with tight deadlines that don’t allow for leeway.
  5. Project lacks a sponsor – Who will support the project? Someone has to go to bat for you and make sure your job is not any harder than it has to be.
  6. Turf wars over ownership – When things go wrong, no one shoulders the blame but passes it around.
  7. Customers not consulted – Don’t assume what a customer wants. Ask them.
  8. Project scope expands – It’s easy to lose sight of the final goal when it is not defined from the beginning.
  9. Overestimating time schedules – It is better to finish early rather than promising a deadline and overshooting it.
  10. Milestones are not reached – When deadlines are missed and the team is chastised, everyone quickly becomes demoralized and the work falls off.
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