Why Projects Fail

Businesses around the world experience projects that are not successful and often question where things went wrong. When leadership asks why projects fail, most of the answers come down to three major errors in the management of a project. The most crucial factors to a project's success are also where they are most likely to fail. Unidentified or poorly identified objectives and goals, lack of management support, and poorly resourced projects are the answers to management’s question of “Why do projects fail?”

No Clear Goal

When companies begin their project work, there should be a goal or objective identified before work begins. Unfortunately, this doesn’t always happen. If project goals are not clearly defined by management, the project team doesn’t have visibility of what management wants to accomplish. This is one of the most common reasons why projects fail. This disconnect on any project can create misdirection, rework, and wasted time among team members. During the early phases of a project, leadership and project managers must meet to clearly identify goals and objectives.

Lack of Management Involvement

Regardless of goals and objectives for projects, leadership should be involved throughout the entire project. The need for involvement from management is two-fold; leading the project directionally, and having responsibility and holding accountability within the organization. A common reason for why projects fail is heavy management involvement at the project's inception and engagement waned towards the end.  Leadership involvement must be apparent and consistent throughout the entire project. Having leadership involved throughout the project removes barriers that many projects face, like changes in expectations and miscommunications.

Resource Allocation

When identifying why projects fail in organizations, the allocation and utilization of resources is often lower on the list but is still very important. Project resources are not limited to money and people; resources also include time and technology, among other things. Properly resourcing a project means that all “moving parts” are accounted for and the capacity of each (i.e. time working, maximum budget, software capability) is documented. Following the utilization of resources closely allows for the project manager to identify when one may be reaching its limit and step in to alleviate any problems.

It’s not hard to know when projects fail, but having a true understanding of why projects fail is critical to the growth of your business. Identifying if your next project passes these key fail points, goals, management, and resources,  will help you ensure that the project, and those coming after it, will be successful.

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About Michael Parker

Michael Parker is the founder and president of Lean Sigma Corporation, a leading Lean Six Sigma certification provider, and licensor of premium training content to universities and corporations world wide. Michael has over 25 years of experience leading and executing Lean Six Sigma programs and projects. As a Fortune 50 senior executive, Michael led oversight of project portfolios as large as 150 concurrent projects exceeding $100 million in annual capital expenditures. Michael has also managed multi-site operations with the accountability of over 250 quality assurance managers, analysts, and consultants. He is an economist by education, earning his Bachelor of Science degree from Radford University while also lettering four years as an NCAA Division I scholarship athlete. Michael earned his Six Sigma Master Black Belt certification from Bank of America and his Black Belt certification from R.R. Donnelley & Sons. He holds nine U.S. Copyrights for his "Learn Six Sigma" publications, and a U.S. Patent.