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Why Projects Fail and What Project Managers Can Do to Save Them

One of the biggest disappointments a company can face is the failure to complete a project successfully. This shortcoming can not be...

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Why Projects Fail and What Project Managers Can Do to Save Them

One of the biggest disappointments a company can face is the failure to complete a project successfully. This shortcoming can not be attributed to individuals alone and is often a reflection of a flawed process in the concerned organization – a problem that many startups and new entrepreneurs are commonly faced with. And in this post, we will be talking about why projects Fail?

There are several factors that can trigger a project’s failure, and it is the responsibility of project managers to find solutions, which can be different for every brand or company. These problems are not hard to solve, yet often due to negligence are left unresolved, and can lead to a multitude of even bigger problems for the company in the future.

Here are a few of the major reasons why projects fail, and what PMs can do to save them.

Reasons for why projects fail:

1. Understanding the limitation of your resources

All projects are based on milestones and deliverables. It is imperative to have a realistic understanding of your resources, and what they can or can not accomplish well. 

When undertaking a project and creating its scope, new companies often commit to projects that are out of their expertise. Although this is definitely a brave undertaking, it can also be crippling to a business’s current growth and reputation in the market.

2. Lack of proper planning and prioritization

Often times, project managers fail to create a clear plan of action to achieve the desired results. 

Creating a project plan requires an in-depth analysis of each of the tasks at hand. One should take into account how long each task will take, how many resources will have to be allocated and if there are other tasks pending, which will slow down progress.

One mistake that is made during planning is that projects are taken into isolation, holding all other variables constant. It is essential to leave some room within the planning for any unplanned or urgent tasks that might come about. 

Moreover, planning the exact steps is also important. Certain times, some of the steps are predicated on the completion of others. This means that a chunk of work is delayed because of one task, which isn’t being completed due to a fault in planning.

This is a classic prioritization problem that teams face, especially those with limited resources. It is crucial to understand which tasks need to be completed before others are started, to ensure an uninterrupted flow of the project.

3. Communication problems when assigning tasks.

Communication is an integral part of project completion. Each member of the team should be in constant touch with project managers for transparency.

Communication by its nature is a two-way street, and problems can be the fault of either of the parties. 

If any of the parties fail to establish a clear line of communication, problems could arise. For example, it is important to translate the bigger picture behind each task to your resources.

If the resources are unable to understand the bigger picture, it could affect the overall quality of the product. Moreover, it is also important to recognize the role of language barriers in communication. In global businesses, this can lead to a misunderstanding regarding the specifics of a project.

Furthermore, a lack of accountability is also a communication problem. Between a resource and a project manager, maintaining frequent checks and balances are important. Often, missing accountability measures can mean that individual mistakes in a team can affect several components of a project.

Once a task is assigned, there needs to be accountability to check the progress of it. Taking an update only when the job is finished or close to the deadline day is a major cause of project failure.

This is where resources are demanded to work longer hours due to inaccuracies in the project that are noticed too late. Thus, last-minute testing and fixes become ineffective due to less time and lead to eventual failure.

4. Extreme flexibility for the customer

This is a tough one for companies, especially in the modern world, where there is a focus on a “customer-oriented” approach.

It is essential to realize that saying yes to everything the client says is not what a customer-oriented approach is all about.

It is about giving the customer what is best for them and solving their problems. And sometimes, they can be a problem for themselves.

Once a scope is finalized, sometimes clients can second guess themselves and keep updating the scope of their project. This can be a huge problem, especially if they work on their project has already started.

It is wiser to stick to that plan until complete product deployment. Any further changes are better delayed for “phase two” of the project. This allows resources to focus on completing tasks without any confusion. 

This also allows for the creation of a more streamlined process which is easier to follow. Constant changes in requirements can lead to a lack of compatibility within different features and give rise to problems that can be avoided.

5. Skipping prototyping

Prototyping is an essential part of completing a project and delivering it successfully. It helps you identify flaws or bugs, enables you to solidify an idea and its application, and it helps you plan your next steps better.

When companies neglect the need for prototyping, they fail to utilize vital information that can be gathered during that phase of development. In the absence of this information, there are bound to be complications when delivering the complete project.

Now, this is not necessarily always the case, an incredibly talented team might pull it off nine out of ten times but there is still a risk.

This is a practice in companies to save time and effort, whereas most of the time, this strategy ends up demanding more time and effort due to problems in the final product.

Things project managers can do to solve problems:

Project managers need to be agile and focus on changing the way processes work to make them more optimized and efficient. These are some of the practices that PMs should inculcate in their work to better deliver projects and guide them to success.

1. Plan out each step in advance through an SOW document.

The Scope of Work (SOW) document should be the first and fundamental activity that project managers should work on. This document lays down the boundaries of the project, what it entails, what it doesn’t include, the pricing, the timeline and a breakdown of the project.

It is a detailed document that also mentions the different milestones, limitations, and terms of the agreement.

Spending more time on this document can help better the overall project delivery. It lays out a clear plan for the project that both the company and client agree on.

This document becomes the backbone of the entire project and, if missing, can lead to a lot of chaos in the production cycle.

By creating a detailed SOW document, project managers can streamline the process, increasing the chances of delivering the right product at the right time.

2. Use project management tools for transparency

Project management tools are an incredible resource for transparency. They provide an in-depth check and balance on the project progress. PMs can manage all resources, assign tasks to them and check their productivity on these platforms.

One such platform is Jira, which aligns tasks and makes it easier for project managers to manage their teams. This increases accountability and also creates convenience for managers to check-up on their resources.

Moreover, this helps them identify the weak points in the production cycle and assist in future projects by eliminating those weaknesses. None of this is possible manually, and every project manager needs to implement these platforms and train their teams to use them responsibly.

3. Establish KPIs for resources per project

For every hired resource, there are Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that are established. Often times, it is hard to analyze if these KPIs are going to be met or not. Mostly, teams only identify either of the two things. First, that a resource has met their KPIs or that they haven’t met their KPIs.

This is detrimental to a project’s success. PMs should assign their own unique KPIs for every project, to ensure they can keep track of which resource is likely to achieve their overall KPIs and which of them are not.

This way, they can employ a number of strategies to ensure that those who are likely to fall behind, don’t fall behind. They can motivate them to work harder, provide any assistance they might need, or reallocate them to a different task if they’re having a hard time completing something.

This creates a more dynamic understanding of project delivery and resource management for managers, allowing them to make the changes necessary to complete a project.

4. Take advice from the development team when committing to a timeline

While this is a very obvious step, you’ll be surprised by how many companies and project managers get this wrong. When deciding the timeline for a project, there is no insight taken from the resources that are going to get the job done.

The developers or labor resources are the best fit to decide the timeline. While project managers have relevant expertise to do so, taking advice is still essential. This is step companies usually ignore.

This boils down to the company culture, where the resources are seen as labor and not assets. Their insight can help understand the limitations they are working with and take them into account.

This helps with more honest commitments and a better relationship with the client. Inaccurate commitments aren’t always malicious. They can be a result of simple negligence, and project managers can quickly solve them by taking into consideration the viewpoint of the team.

Written by Furqan
As a Partner at CydoMedia with extensive experience in Account Management, Furqan has led cross-functional teams on a global scale and maintained an exceptional record of building successful businesses from scratch.
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5 Replies to “Why Projects Fail and What Project Managers Can Do to Save Them”

  1. This is a very important post thanks for this post as well as great information I am very impressed to know your website it is very useful. thanks a lot.

  2. How are you admin,
    I Am Sabreena,I visit this website on a daily basis yo read this blog quality and unique posts, This website provides quality and valuable information which help in the specified field. This website is all about the facts of great information. Good Work Kep it up.

  3. Hello Jane,

    Every project is unique and hence, has uncertainty. When we try to qualify and quantify that uncertainty, we call it risk. It is incumbent upon the project manager to proactively anticipate things that might go wrong.

    Once he has identified risks, then he and the team can decide on how to respond to avoid those specific risks should they occur. Indeed, communication is the thread that holds projects together.

    Every project needs a well-defined end state from a business, operations and customer perspective.

    In my opinion – It’s very important to have a clear scope of the project before starting to execute it and poor communication leads to unresolved conflicts, which could have an adverse effect on the project.

    Eventually, thanks for sharing your creative thoughts with us.

    With best wishes,

    Amar Kumar

  4. Thanks For Sharing an inspirational article. Your Blog all Post information is very unique and good for the reader because when I have read your blog looks very impressive for me. I want to say thanks to you. Most importantly I have bookmark your site for future updates.

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