8 Common Causes of Project Failure (and how to avoid them!)

Date: 05/06/2019| Category: Project Management| Tags:

A successfully completed project means a product and/or service delivered on-time, within budget and in line with the organizational goals and objectives. To reach this goal, you define the methodology to use (which can be either Waterfall or Agile), you choose your tools and define your goals, deliverables and milestones. It seems like you are set for success. But it does not always lead to the success that you expected. Why? Let us dive into the 8 common causes of project failure.

There are 8 common causes of project failure.

  1. Lack of clear links between the project and the organization’s key strategic priorities (including agreed measures of success)
  2. Lack of clear senior management and ministerial ownership and leadership
  3. Lack of effective engagement with stakeholders
  4. Lack of skills and a proven approach to project management and risk management
  5. Too little attention to breaking development and implementation into manageable steps
  6. Evaluation of proposals driven by initial price rather than long-term value for money (especially securing delivery of business benefits)
  7. Lack of understanding of, and contact with, the supply industry at senior levels in the organization
  8. Lack of effective project team integration between clients, the supplier team and the supply chain.

For all of these 8 causes of project failure, there is a remedy. You have to take a close look at your processes and ask some key questions to address the issue.

Lack of clear links between the project and the organization’s key strategic priorities (including agreed measures of success)

  • Are the critical success factors defined?
  • Have the critical success factors been shared amongst suppliers and stakeholders?
  • Are the lessens learnt from other projects being applied?
  • Are all the documents in place?

Lack of clear senior management and ministerial ownership and leadership

  • Does the project have the necessary approval to proceed?
  • When and how are decisions being taken?
  • Is there a clear view of the interdependencies between projects, benefits and the criteria against which success will be judged?

Lack of effective engagement with stakeholders

  • Are the considered stakeholders the right stakeholders?
  • Is there a common understanding and agreement with the stakeholders?
  • Does the Business Case take account of the views of all stakeholders, including users?

Lack of skills and a proven approach to project management and risk management

  • Are roles and responsibilities clearly defined?
  • Are the major risk identified?
  • Are the right governance arrangements in place?

Too little attention to breaking development and implementation into manageable steps

  • Are there enough review points built in to decide on the continuation of the project?
  • Is there a business continuity in case the project delivery is late or failing?
  • How long is the time between the deliveries?

Evaluation of proposals driven by initial price rather than long-term value for money (especially securing delivery of business benefits)

  • Does the evaluation take account of business criticality and affordability?
  • Is the evaluation approach business driven?
  • Is the evaluation based on whole -life value for money, taking account of capital, maintenance and service costs?

Lack of understanding of, and contact with the supply industry at senior levels in the organisation

  • Is there a clear strategy for engaging with the industry?
  • Is there a clear understanding of the dynamics of the industry?
  • Has there been a check that the project will attract sufficient competitive interest?

Lack of effective project team integration between clients, the supplier team and the supply chain

  • Has there been a market evaluation?
  • Is a shared risk register been established?
  • Is there early supplier involvement to help determine and validate what outputs and outcomes are sought for the project?

What next?

If the answers of the above questions, regarding the 8 common causes of project failures, are unsatisfactory, project should not be allowed to proceed until further action is taken. Appropriate assurances need to be obtained and all the documentation need to be in place, action is needed.

The removal of the causes of common failure mechanisms creates a more stable and controlled environment in which to deliver projects.

Source: First published in “Addressing Project Failure through PRINCE2” and reproduced with kind permission of “APMG

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