January 19, 2018


Project management advice, tips, tools and recommended resources for existing and aspiring project managers.

10 Ways To Make Projects Fail

Reasons Why Projects Fail

Project Failure

Project Failure

Even though Project Management has become a respected and well-known profession in modern times, in some circles, the belief still persists that getting work done through projects is a waste of time. This is especially true for people who have seen many projects start with a bang only to fail miserably later on.

Let’s look at some causes for project failure that leads to or re-enforces the belief that projects and having a management-by-project approach is a waste of time and money.

Failure can easily be the outcome of a project if you ignore some core principles.

The 10 ways to FAIL projects are:

  1. Don’t analyse the precise Business Needs for a project. Just start the work.
  2. Don’t bother to define Business Benefits as derived from business needs being met.  This way no benefits are realised as none were expected in the first place.
  3. Don’t waste time with Detail Planning. A high level plan, or a graphical picture of the end result, is good enough to show people what the goals are and to get them going.
  4. Don’t bother identifying Tangible Deliverables for a project. Too much documentation is a waste of paper and who will read it anyway? Just fix your attention on the end goal.
  5. Use any available Resources (people), as long as the work gets done. Don’t waste time on precise role descriptions and finding the right people to do the job.
  6. Don’t make the Project Manager Responsible and Accountable for the project outcome. Accountability should come from the project team members. Keep them responsible to make the project happen.
  7. Once a project plan is in place, don’t bother to Follow-up. Each person should commit to what they need to do and that’s it.
  8. Communication should be just enough to keep the project on track, don’t over-complicate things by communicating too much or too often.  Stakeholders (people with a vested interest in the project) can ask if they need more information.
  9. When a project team starts working together, they will build their own momentum without the project manager facilitating the process. Teams will work together without Team Building and Team Development.
  10. As long as the project manager is technically competent, the Leadership abilities can always be developed later.

Surely, you will recognize some of these symptoms of failing projects that you have witnessed or that you may have been a part of.  As stupid as it may sound, if even 3 or more of the principles are lacking (not present) in any project, it is doomed to fail. A failed project is recognized by the fact that it is late, over budget and/or it lacks quality, which means it did not deliver according to requirements and expectations as agreed up-front.  Worst of all, the project was never finished! (Have you ever heard of sunk money?  This is usually how projects are referred to when they are cancelled half-way).

Project Success

Project Success

Now go and re-read the 10 ways to fail projects. See if you can recognise the CORE PRINCIPLES that you need to follow to ensure a successful outcome for your business projects.  Please feel free to add principles or give comments on your experiences of project failures…..

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  1. […] Virtual Project Management Consulting  examines what makes projects fail, listing qualities like Detail Planning, Tangible Deliverables and Resources, among their list of 10 – http://www.virtualprojectconsulting.com/projectfailure/ […]