Why projects fail – top 5 reasons

by Stuart on 23 November 2010

Why do projects fail? And how on earth can you make sure that your project doesn't fail?

Simple answer – you can't.

But you can improve your chances of success dramatically, by considering some of the reasons that projects go wrong, and avoiding them – easy! I know this sounds like a bit of back-to-front thinking, but trust me, it does make sense. Projects fail for many reasons, and the weird thing is that no matter how big or complex they are, the most "popular" reasons tend to be the same; and the top five are ..

  • Project team unsure of project objectives;
  • Project team unsure of project deliverables;
  • At the end of the project, the objectives were only partially met;
  • The planned schedule tended to run late;
  • The budget was exceeded.

We'll explore these in more detail over the next couple of posts

Team unsure of project objectives

It seems so obvious when you think about it, but the most important thing you, as project manager, have to do is to make sure that everyone, everyone involved in the project has a clear understanding of what the objectives are. You must include the customer and/or end user in this list. If you don’t know what you're doing, and the customer doesn't know what s/he's getting, you're going to fail – period.

Define the project objectives in simple clear language. SMART objectives – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic & Time-related – are good to use. This technique makes it very difficult to remain uncertain of what the project is all about.

Equally, a set of SMART objectives makes it clear what the project is not about. It defines the boundaries.

Write the objectives down and get everyone to sign up to them, in blood – preferably their own.

Tomorrow – Deliverables

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