Why do Projects Fail? How to Avoid Project Management Failures
Nobody likes to talk about the F-word—Failure—but acknowledging failure and understanding why it occurred is the best way to avoid making the same mistakes in the future. The next time you encounter a project management failure, look inward to see what went wrong and take appropriate steps to eliminate the issues.
Even though every company is different, there are some common themes about what causes failure in a project.
1. Poor Planning
One of the most important things to do to avoid failure is extensive planning. This includes project scheduling, resource allocation, meetings before the onset of a project, etc. Even though extensive planning can be time-consuming, all planning efforts will make the entire team feel more prepared and capable of handling any situation that may arise.
2. Poor Management
Poor management is crippling to the success of a project. A manager who cannot handle the task at hand will not be able to successfully manage his team and materials in an efficient way, which will cost the project manager money, time, and credibility. A good manager will know the strengths and weaknesses of his team and assign tasks accordingly. He will be capable of handling unexpected situations and have a reaction plan.
3. Poor Communication
Miscommunication is deadly, and lurking at every corner. Any given construction project requires communication from management all the way to the field. The best way to combat miscommunication is by using a mobile project management technology that will allow all team members to communicate in real-time, and that will store all emails in one centralized database that can be accessed by anybody on the project. This transparency of communication flow will allow everyone to be on the same page throughout the whole project.
4. Failure to Recognize Warning Signs
A good project manager is able recognize the red flags of a project. This ability will allow them to catch and address issues before they become problematic. This is important should any design flaws occur, because early detection is the difference between a small amount of rework and devastation to the entirety of a project.
5. Lack of Visibility
Failure occurs when members of a team do not have access to relevant information when they need it. The solution to this is project management software that will keep all documents in one place with exceptional security and accessible to authorized personal at anytime. This will create an easily traceable audit trail and clearly define all decisions and changes that were made along the track of any project.
These causes of project failure happen all the time, around the globe, and in companies of all ages and sizes. However, these causes are avoidable with the right people, workflows and tools to get the job done.
Here are some examples of construction projects that have failed and why:
The Millennium Dome was a huge construction project in London meant to celebrate the third millennium. Its original function was to serve as a soccer field for a London soccer team that was yet to be determined. This Dome, however, was unable to bring in the foot-traffic it had anticipated and failed to interest any soccer teams, causing it to be sold shortly after its creation.
What did Millennium Dome do wrong?
— Poor planning: Millennium Dome was unable to create and adhere to one vision. The purpose of the project was constantly changing, creating confusion among the team. They also ran into financial problems, as the maintenance costs were not properly accounted for in the planning and estimating phase.
— Poor execution: A failure to execute their purpose caused them to receive negative word-of-mouth and press which damaged their reputation.
— No plan B: The PM did not have a back-up plan, so when the project started to run into hurdles, they had no other choice but to deal with the chaos as it came.
The “Big Dig”
The “Big Dig” in Boston was designed to create a long tunnel to re-route the current interstate freeways. This project faced problems with unforeseen challenges such as physical barriers, scheduling flaws, and design mistakes. This project finished nine years later than its original completion date (16 years in total) and ended up costing over 20 billion dollars.
What did the “Big Dig” do wrong?
— Poor planning: They did not properly schedule the project in a way that allocated labor and materials accurately and effectively. They faced many scheduling issues, and underestimated the magnitude of the project by a devastating amount.
— Poor risk management: They did not consider possible challenges such as the physical barriers in the ground and the extra costs that were incurred due to external and internal factors.
— Poor execution: They failed to meet their pricing and timing budgets due to inaccurate estimation and planning.
Do not shy away from your failures; they are the backbone of your future success. Rather, understand your failures and take appropriate action to mitigate them.