5 Reasons Why Projects Fail

A team of coworkers prepare to tackle a client project from start and finish. They’ve got the whole plan lined up on the project management software that they are using – whether it’s a housing construction project or a large-scale catering event. But despite all of the preparation and planning, things often go awry – the client may be unhappy, the costs run way over budget, or the deadline continues to slip. Despite scrutinizing a number of factors, for many businesses, it's unclear why projects fail. 

There is usually no single, simple explanation for what went wrong. The workers who participated in the failed endeavor will likely have different interpretations of the events that shaped its demise. But research has shown that many failed projects share a number of characteristics, which you’ll want to review in order to become a project manager with a high rate of success.  

Reason 1: Not setting concrete goals for everyone

All members of the project team need to know what they are responsible for doing and when they need to get it done. CIO Magazine suggests holding a kickoff meeting with all of the stakeholders to lay out the deliverables that are expected of them.

Projects flounder when some teammates are left with only vague goals and undefined timelines. Even a talented, driven team member who wants to do as much as possible for the project is likely to drop the ball if the project manager does not make clear what the employee needs to deliver in the short and long-term.

One of the common consequences of a lack of concrete objectives is “scope creep,” in which a project morphs into a wide-ranging, incoherent assortment of tasks, as members of the team go off in their own directions or assume responsibilities that were not part of the original plan. Scope creep can result from any number of specific management failures, but most of them relate in some way to weak or disorganized leadership.

To prevent members of a team from migrating away from their original goals, a strong project manager will demand that the scope of the project be as narrowly defined as possible from the beginning. After that, the best way to ensure that the team is staying true to the plan is to set milestones – ideally through topnotch project management software – for them to achieve and report back on.

Before kicking off the work, preparation is keyestablish a clear vision, estimate, plan, and owners for each task. Additionally, while teams will inevitably need to make adjustments, there should be a formal approval process for any changes that arise. 

Reason 2: Forgetting to prioritize

All projects are important, but some are more important than others. If there are employees who are working simultaneously on multiple projects, somebody must clearly articulate what their top priority should be.

Prioritization is not only critical at the beginning of a project, but important to keep in mind as the project progresses. If you are regularly encountering team members who aren’t delivering because they are distracted by other tasks, you need to intervene. In some cases, the only solution is to lessen that person’s workload.

But before adjusting the tasks that someone has on his or her plate, you can first address the issue by setting up more concrete expectations for the amount of time they will devote to each project. It’s helpful to implement a formal employee time tracking system, in which you and the employee can review the time they spend on a given project or task throughout the week. Timesheet Mobile’s employee time tracking app allows workers and managers to easily analyze work hours spent by project, client and task, while saving your business money.

Reason 3: Lacking centralized communication

Text messages. Emails. Facebook messages. Phone calls. Face-to-face meetings. The disparate forms of communication makes it easy for certain information to fall through the cracks or go unnoticed by key members of the team.

One of the key functions of project management software is its centralized communication. It’s best when teams commit to communicating about the project through the platform, rather than relying on a hodgepodge of technology to share information at any given moment. With only one place to go for the latest updates, nobody should have an excuse for being out of the loop. Everybody is literally on the same page.

Although putting a new system in place can seem daunting, there are a number of platforms with project management templates that are extremely easy to get a hang of and that people will quickly appreciate as a superior method of communicating and tracking a project’s progress.


Reason 4: An absence of project management training or skills

It is ofen assumed that those with the greatest technical expertise are best-suited to manage projects. However, communicating with team members, delegating work in a way that others understand and holding people accountable are skills that don’t come naturally to everybody. That’s not to say that your supervisors or workers can’t rise to the occasion, but they first need to receive training on the principles of project management.

Before designating team members to roles where they need to oversee or manage projects and coworkers, it’s important to understand their personalities and leadership qualities, as these are important factors in executing a successful project. Similar to how identifying job candidates with the right personalities is key to building a strong organization, having a clear idea of the team dynamics once a project is underway will save you a lot of time in the long run.

Reason 5: Unrealistic commitments or expectations

It’s tempting to set an aggressive timeline – as it ensures you finish a project faster, send the invoice to the client, and move your workers on to the next job. But setting unrealistic goals does not benefit anyone. Instead, it often leads to burnout, disappointment and lack of trust.

If you tell a client, for instance, that they can expect to have the rooms in their house or commercial property painted and ready in two weeks, they begin planning around that happening. Don’t set yourself and your team up for disappointment. Always buffer in time to ensure that you exceed expectations, boost team morale and satisfy and your clients. Researching and investing in the right tools can serve as the backbone to your project's success. 

Employee Management

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