Common Reasons for Project Failure

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Common Reasons for Project Failure

Category : Facts , Quality Management

Most organisations have experienced projects that did not end on time, were over budget, or changed in scope over time. There are many pitfalls that can sink projects. In this blog i have collated the reasons from couple of sites as mentioned in the source.

  • Poor planning and/or inadequate process – planning is central to the success of a project. It is important to define what constitutes project success or failure at the earliest stage of the process. It is also essential to drill down the big picture to smaller tasks.
  • Inefficient way to document and track progress – this is an oversight on the part of the project manager. Tracking milestones is a crucial way to see if expectations are being met. Documentation and tracking also lets the manager identify which areas require more resources to be completed on time.
  • Poor leadership at any level – the “leader” is usually identified as the project manager. However, the management-level executive also has a responsibility of ensuring the project’s success. He/she should work together with the manager to ensure that the company’s exact requirements are understood.
  • Failure to set expectations and manage them – in working in a team setting, it is critical that you’re able to manage people. If and when expectations are not met, there should be clearly-defined consequences. The task should then be prioritized and possibly reassigned to a more competent individual.
  • Inadequately-trained project managers – the project manager is taking on a heavy responsibility. It is important to assign management roles only to individuals who have the capabilities to meet requirements. In some cases, poorly-trained managers are assigned to complex projects; this is a recipe for failure.
  • Inaccurate cost estimation – there are instances when the cost of an undertaking is grossly underestimated. When it runs out of resources, the project cannot be completed. This can be mitigated when the lack of resources is identified early by the project manager.
  • Lack of communication at any level – communication between the management executive and the project manager, and between the latter and the team members are always important. Everyone should feel free to come forward to state their concern or give suggestions.
  • Culture or ethical misalignment – the culture of the company must prize competence, pro-activeness, and professionalism. If it doesn’t, the team members may not have the motivation to do their best. In essence, everyone involved must be concerned about the success of their undertaking.
  • Competing priorities – when a company’s resources are stretched, there will be competing priorities in terms of manpower and financing. Having good cost estimation at the start will eliminate this problem.
  • Disregard of project warning signs – when a project is on the verge of failing, there will always be warning signs. Taking action immediately can save the project. Otherwise, the whole endeavor can just go down the drain.


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:

Poorly managed Undefined objectives and goals Lack of management commitment
Lack of a solid project plan Lack of user input Lack of organisational support
Centralised proactive management initiatives to combat project risk Enterprise management of budget resources Provides universal templates and documentation
Poorly defined roles and responsibilities Inadequate or vague requirements Stakeholder conflict
Team weaknesses Unrealistic timeframes and tasks Competing priorities
Poor communication Insufficient resources (funding and personnel) Business politics
Overruns of schedule and cost Estimates for cost and schedule are erroneous Lack of prioritisation and project portfolio management
Scope creep No change control process Meeting end user expectations
Ignoring project warning signs Inadequate testing processes Bad decisions



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