Why projects fail – reason 412

by Stuart on 10 April 2012

Who cares what the number of the reason is?  I made it up anyway.  This post is about how to stop projects failing.  Or at least, how to lessen the chances of your project failing.

And the solution is … keep on top of things.

Sounds banal, but it most certainly is not.

Read on to find out why…

Stuart’s first golden rule is NO SURPRISES.  If you’re going to apply this rule, you need to work at it.  You need to make sure you know what is happening, and what is not happening.  You need to know how your resources are being expended.  And you need this information to be up to date.

It’s no use to anyone to know that production of widget A, which is absolutely essential to the product and is perilously close to the critical path, is going slowly 2 weeks after the problem came to light.  By the time you find out, you’ve spent extra money you hadn’t planned to spend, you’ve lost time and the project plan and project budget have been blown out of the water.  Had you known about the problem earlier you might have been able to solve it, or at the very least, taken action to minimise the impact.  Now here you are, and your project is in trouble.

In order for you to have a chance to fix a problem you need to know about it as soon as it happens, or preferably, as soon as it seems likely it will happen.  And that takes effort on your part.  And that’s fine.  That’s what you’re paid to do.

Your organisation needs decent systems to help you.  In particular, it needs systems to collect financial information quickly and accurately and feed you the data you need in a timely manner so you can keep on top of the budget.  The sooner you see a number start to drift, you can investigate the reason and do something about it.

It may seem obvious, but sometimes the most obvious things are the hardest to see.


And finally, a question for you.  Suppose you’re at the start of a two year project and you find out that one of the early tasks is running a little late, maybe a day or two.  Should you worry?

Answers in the comments, and my views on it in the next post.


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