The Top 5 Reasons Why Projects Fail

Mike Girdler

Avoid these pitfalls to ensure your project success Let’s face it, no one wants to see a project fail. It’s just too costly. In addition …

Avoid these pitfalls to ensure your project success

why-do-projects-failLet’s face it, no one wants to see a project fail. It’s just too costly. In addition to wasted resources – financial and human, company morale and market competitiveness can suffer. Increase the odds of project success by sidestepping these top 5 reasons that contribute to a project failing.


#5 – Wrong team members

For project success you need a qualified project manager and a team with the skills to pull the job off. Too many times I have seen someone thrown into the responsibility of managing a project with little or no project management experience. As well, the team needs to have the capabilities to perform their tasks, they need to understand what is expected, the project’s priority, and what success looks like.


#4 – Poor project planning

It’s critical to have a project plan that covers all aspects of initiation, planning, executing, monitoring, controlling and closing. By ensuring a solid project plan, you’re able to effectively manage the project. You know the requirements, stakeholder expectations, and are able to manage scope, quality, timeline, budgets, risk, and resources. Without a solid project plan, you’re basically just winging it and inviting project failure.


#3 – No project charter

By overlooking the use of this tool and step, you’re setting the project for failure right out of the gate. The charter outlines several things: the purpose, description, business case, objectives, what success looks like, requirements, milestones, budget, risk, and project management authority. Key stakeholders sign the charter and everyone has a uniform understanding of the why, the how and the what of the project. The charter sets up the foundation that project success is built upon. Without it, how can you properly plan, resource, and execute the project? We have a mini-project charter template available on our website for download.


#2 – Lack of executive support

Looking for a sure fire way to see a project fail, try executing it without commitment and support from your CEO and executive team. The CEO and executive team ensure the project is in line with corporate objectives, but they play a much bigger role than just that. They need to be completely engaged throughout the life of the project. They must advocate for the project and ensure everyone understands the rationale for undertaking the project, its priority, and the benefits. It’s up to them to make sure that the project is seen through to a successful end and it doesn’t fizzle out and become another flavor of the month.


#1 – Poor communication

Poor communication between the project manager, stakeholders and team members will kill any project – period. Quarterbacking effective communication on a project is the responsibility of the project manager. Effective project managers create communications plans during the project planning phase. They use the right channels and frequency to make sure their communications are accurate, relevant and tailored to the varying needs of the stakeholders. They are constantly plugged into the project and have a real and complete picture that allows them to apprise stakeholders on the project, make the right decisions and take the right actions to keep the project moving along.


The cost of a project failing is too high. Make sure you have the right team, plan properly, use a charter, have the support of your executive team, and communicate effectively to ensure your project doesn’t end up in the fail pile.


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Michael Girdler is a vice-president, CornerStone Dynamics Inc. His blogs focus on all things project management. Throughout Mike's career, he has invested deeply into projects involving sales, marketing, training and development, continuing education, and communications environments.

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