Every project manager would like to see his project win acclaim as a great success. Nobody sets out to fail, but some projects do go down in flames. When this happens, it’s tempting to push the dead-on-arrival project under the carpet and hurry on, but it’s smarter to take a careful look at why a project failed and figure out what went wrong so similar problems can be avoided in the future. Here are a few factors that could kill a project faster than arsenic poisoning:
1. Poor Communication/Poor Leadership
It’s the project manager’s job to make sure team members are all on board with the project and that they all know their responsibilities. However, far too often, a project manager will make vague assignments (especially when the project team crosses multiple geographical locations and time zones) and not follow up with the team again until assignments are due. That’s a sure-fire recipe for failure.
You may know exactly what you’re doing to guide your project team to victory. The problem is, your project stakeholders don’t, and they keep coming up with impractical orders and changes that don’t make sense. Trying to please a large stakeholder group is a common reason why projects fail.
3. Vague Objectives
A project can’t succeed if you don’t know exactly what its objective is. Objectives should be quantifiable so that anyone evaluating the project can easily see if it met its goals. For instance, instead of ‘make customers happy’ an objective goal might be, ‘improve customer service satisfaction by ten percent’.
4. The Project Grows Too Big and Unwieldy
This is also known as the ‘creep’ syndrome and ‘oh, by the way’ syndrome. We’ve all been there. A project starts out with a clear objective such as ‘keep track of client spending trends’, then another manager suggests that the project should encompass the company’s buying trends as well. Before long, another manager wants it to keep track of client credit ratings. Soon the revised project looks nothing like the one that was initially conceived, the project manager has lost control and failure is imminent.
5. The Team is Wrong
Sometimes the team selected for the project simply doesn’t have the knowledge and skills necessary to complete it, even with strong leadership.
Projects don’t fly high one moment and come crashing down around you the next. There are always early signs that something isn’t right, such as being over budget or failing to meet deadlines. The good manager catches these problems early, addresses them, and starts planning to save the project. The poor manager ignores warning signals until the project is beyond hope.