5 Common Reasons Why Projects Fail

10 min read
Vlad Kovalskiy
December 6, 2016
Last updated: April 5, 2023
5 Common Reasons Why Projects Fail
With 5 equally demanding phases in its lifecycle and 10 areas that need to be considered regardless of how elaborate a business endeavour is, project management falls under the category of the most complex practices in the field. Even when carefully pre-planned, a project still has a long chain of dependencies to rely on until its timely fruition, which is why a single weak link can put a whole process in jeopardy. More often than we’d like, projects fail exactly because of miscalculations in designing and missteps in execution.

And, while a remarkable 97% of organizations “believe project management is critical to business performance and organizational success”, 2015 has accomplished to see less than a third of all initiated projects through! However, discouraging, these stats can actually help us detect the rotten apple of PM and secure a bigger, more successful yield for the upcoming season.

If in the business of pursuing deliverables and meeting objectives, pay close attention to these 5 common culprits of project failure. Never, ever get them out of your sight.

1. Poor Planning

However near at hand, rare is an objective that can be achieved with a single sweep. In project management, the distance between the notion and the goal is even further and, by rule, approaching one requires manifold operations that form an intricate causal system. Being so unavoidably interconnected, even the tiniest of elements – not only project milestones, but their consecutive task and subtasks as well – need to be considered beforehand, and with the utmost precision.

Crucial for effective development, project planning has to define a clear and attainable goal and draw out the roadmap for everyone involved to follow. The Scope Statement should include elaborate versions of both, while the Work Breakdown Schedule should fragmentize them into key milestones. Additionally, this phase should establish a basic communication and risk management layout as well.

Commencing a project without these necessary assessments is the business equivalent of leaping in the dark – having no structure to support it, a project is doomed to fail.

2. Scope Creep

Once the Scope Statement is established, the project development cycle can finally begin. After the Work Breakdown Schedule, which outlines individual milestones and translates them to Gantt Charts or other similar visual representations of the process, a project manager uses this structure to develop a team, allocate roles and responsibilities and draft a project timeline.

In case any of these decisions fall short or any of the participants choose to deviate from the plan even slightly, project standstills are inevitable.

Though there are a lot of factors that can cause this kind of project execution fizzle, the main one is the inability to retain control of the project’s scope. In order to prevent what project managers like to call scope creep, it’s paramount that every member of the team clearly understands both the roadmap and the objective and does his or her part of the job with maximum efficiency. If, for instance, one of the staffers fail to deliver the task, the entire milestone can start going downhill exactly because of the chain of dependencies in which every deliverable has its own precisely calculated place and significance.

Regular status meetings are only one of the ways to nip those potentially fatal mishaps in the bud, but they are certainly the most effective. When on the same page, the project manager, team members and stakeholders can hold their own part of the bargain, thus aligning with the project obligations of other contributors.

3. Lack of Transparency/Poor Communication

Status meetings lead us straight to the communication issue. For a project to succeed, everyone involved should be able to work in unhampered synchronization with each other. Project management is all about careful timing and workflow efficiency, which is why a transparent schedule, productivity methods and time-tracking strategies all play a supporting, but indispensable role during the execution phase.

When it comes to interdepartmental organization, project managers usually solve this problem by employing intuitive automation solutions. Project management solutions give the much-needed assistance in cases of long-lasting but time-sensitive projects, and allow teams to communicate both in real time and on need-basis.

Bitrix24 provides different set of possibilities for prolific cooperation – from group calendars and discussion boards to Gantt charts and the employee workload management, these tools and features are brilliant for synced workflow and timely delivery.

Another communication channel that has to remain open is the one between project managers, clients and stakeholders. These ground rules should be established early on and included in the initial project plan, thus ensuring that all three parties are familiar with each other’s requirements and expectations. Along with stakeholder analysis, systematic reporting is a key to a successful relationship between those who have interests and concerns in a particular project.

4. Absence of Monitoring and Controlling

Contrary to what most project managers practice, the execution phase is not the last one in the lifecycle. Before the account is finally closed, a project needs to be reassessed, the team’s performance measured and the overall deliverable compared to the initial agreement. In case the project monitoring phase is skipped over, the chances are great that there won’t be any viable way out of the project management crisis and that the client won’t be satisfied with the outcome.

Timely performance control can solve much of the uncertainty and significantly shorten the last phase. However lengthy, progress should be gauged after every substantial milestone is closed, and the results reviewed in the form of a performance report. Such a strategy should discover whether a project is on schedule and within the budget or not, determine if the clients’ and stakeholders’ demands have been met thus far, pinpoint authorized changes if there are any and predict possible delays and potential perils.

By keeping track of both individual tasks and the overall progress, project managers are one step closer to successful completion.

5. Weak Management

As you’ve probably already experienced, people allocated with the delicate process of project management often lack expertise, practical knowledge and people skills, all equally essential for enforcing competent leadership and controlling the workflow. Project planning might just be the most problematic aspect of this practice; even if the Scope Statement is satisfactory, a project head is responsible for failed execution.

Choosing the right person for the job should therefore be the first and major concern of successful organizations. Most importantly, project managers need to be a perfect combination of organizational, leadership and soft skills; additionally, this line of work requires great problem-solving abilities, just like the capability of staying cool-tempered and clear-minded under pressure.

In order to avoid all other reasons for failure, organizations simply have to start evading this one first. A project manager is the puppeteer behind the whole show, and is absolutely crucial. Understanding the frequent pitfalls of project management is already half of the solution. If all of the aforementioned runs smoothly, you’ll simply have to dig deeper; once spotted, the root of the problem should always get carefully analyzed before being disposed of. And, while ameliorating what’s been corrupt, remember to recruit automation – what your project heads can’t manage themselves, PM tools certainly will.
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Table of Content
1. Poor Planning 2. Scope Creep 3. Lack of Transparency/Poor Communication 4. Absence of Monitoring and Controlling 5. Weak Management
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