Project Management: Why Projects Fail

Failed-Project

70% of projects fail, but we can do better

There must be Stakeholder buy-in

From my experience, the main reason projects fail is the lack of stakeholder buy-in. Lack of buy-in happens when there was no assessment conducted to define the problem, and as a result, no actual business case was created. If there is no assessment or business case, there are no defined business benefits to include success criteria tied to requirements.

If there are no defined benefits, there is no commitment of support through an itemized budget. If there is no itemized budget, there is no assurance that the best enterprise resources will be allocated to each effort. When a team does not have support from leadership, they ultimately cannot excel because they are not set up for success.

Four contributing factors to lack of Stakeholder buy-in

1. No Strategic Vision

Too much focus on technical detail without making business value a priority blocks stakeholder buy-in. Leadership needs to understand what the ROIs are for the business and that the ROI details should be laid out in a business case to explain the strategic initiative in vivid detail.

2. Ineffective Communication

Leaders must establish clear accountability based on measured results. This process includes interdependencies between projects, a benefits realization roadmap, and the criteria that will determine the degree of success achieved.

There should always be a detailed and complete communication plan with a schedule of expected meetings and frequency.

3. No Planning Methodology

Utilizing consistent project management processes helps manage otherwise ambiguous checkpoints. Leaders must establish benchmarks of productivity and gather quality historical data for analysis, such as schedules, costs, quality, and other project-related factors.

Implementing project management tools and technologies that include RAM (responsibility assignment matrix), WBS (work breakdown structure), Gantt charts, and other project tracking assets help establish a planning framework for a successful project.

4. Ineffective Teams

To build a team of trusted members, leadership must recruit, hire, and retain skilled professionals. It is easier to keep talent if the project is making progress, staying close to schedule, and perceived by stakeholders as meeting business needs. It’s also essential to ensure that the skilled professionals are working with the tools and technologies promised and are working in the project roles promised when recruited to the project.

Conclusion

The data shows that 70% of projects fail to meet intended goals and deliverables. There are clear root causes that contribute to this high failure rate that span strategic vision, planning, communication, and team effectiveness. By understanding why projects fail and addressing these areas, organizations can dramatically improve project success rates.

First and foremost, projects need strong stakeholder buy-in and a clear strategic vision tied to business objectives. Without this in place from leadership, projects quickly derail. An endorsed business case outlines the ROI and metrics that define project success.

Next, a detailed project planning methodology provides the roadmap to achieve success criteria. This includes consistent processes for requirements gathering, scheduling with tools like Gantt charts, budgeting, and tracking via a RAM. Far too often, projects launch without thoughtful planning around deliverables, timelines and necessary resources.

Clear and consistent communication to sponsors and team members is another area where projects fail. A strong communication plan that covers meetings cadences, status reporting, risks and escalation paths enables transparency. Lack of communication causes confusion, blocking progress.

Finally, assembling skilled, cross-functional teams lays the foundation to deliver per the project plan. But recruiting and retaining top talent requires projects to have momentum and a perception of meeting business objectives. Ineffective teams directly leads to missed milestones and budget overruns – clear symptoms of a project in distress.

By understanding the factors of why projects fail, organizations can course correct early and build disciplines to set future projects up for success. Focusing on stakeholder buy-in, planning, communication and teams will dramatically improve project outcomes moving forward.

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