In a perfect world, every project would be “on time and within budget.” But reality (especially the proven statistics) tells a very different story. It’s not uncommon for projects to fail. Even if the budget and schedule are met, one must ask “did the project deliver the results and quality we expected?” True project success must be evaluated on all three components. Otherwise, a project could be considered a “failure.”
Have you ever seen a situation where projects begin to show signs of disorganization, appear out of control, and have a sense of doom and failure? Have you witnessed settings where everyone works in a silo and no one seems to know what the other team member is doing? What about team members who live by the creed “I’ll do my part (as I see fit) and after that, it’s their problem.” Even worse is when team members resort to finger-pointing. Situations similar to these scenarios point to a sign that reads “Danger.” And if you read the fine print under the word “Danger” it reads, “your project needs to brought under control or else it could fail.”
When projects begin to show signs of stress and failure, everyone looks to the Project Manager (PM) for answers. It may seem unfair that the burden of doom falls upon a single individual. But this is the reason why you chose to manage projects for a living! You’ve been trained to recognize and deal with these types of situations.
There are many reasons why projects (both simple and complex) fail; the number of reasons can be infinite. However, if we apply the 80 / 20 rule the most common reasons for failure can be found in the following list:
Undefined objectives and goals
Lack of management commitment
Lack of a solid project plan
Lack of user input
Lack of organizational support
Poorly defined roles and responsibilities
Inadequate or vague requirements
Unrealistic timeframes and tasks
Insufficient Resources (funding and personnel)
Overruns of schedule and cost
Estimates for cost and schedule are erroneous
Lack of prioritization and project portfolio management
No change control process
Meeting end user expectations
Ignoring project warning signs
Inadequate testing processes
Even with the best of intentions or solid plans, project can go awry if they are not managed properly. All too often, mishaps can occur (and usually do). This is when the Project Manager must recognize a warning sign and take action. If you understand the difference between symptoms and problems and can spot warning signs of project failure, your training will help you take steps to right the ship before it keels over. Yes, it’s the PM’s responsibility to correct the listing- no one else. In addition to applying the processes and principles taught in Project Management class, you can also use your personal work skills of communication, management, leadership, conflict resolution, and diplomacy to take corrective action.
During the course of managing a project, the PM must monitor activities (and distractions) from many sources and directions. Complacency can easily set in. When this happens, the process of “monitoring” breaks down. This is why the PM must remain in control of a project and be aware of any activity which presents a risk of project failure. Yes, this is why “you are paid the big bucks.”This posting is provided “as is” with no warranties, guaranties or any rights whatsoever. All content is based on the author’s experiences and opinions and is not intended to influence the actions of the reader.