Top 1 Cause for Project Failure

Topics: Project management, Management, Failure Pages: 290 (65038 words) Published: March 30, 2011
Anish Mathai Mathew [PMP|MBA]
Temenos T24 PROGRAM MANAGER at Union National Bank
Featured discussion

In your experience, what is the TOP #1 cause for Project failure?

From experience, the following are the TOP10 causes of Project failure that Mathew can think of (they are not in any kind of order):

#1. Lacking Sponsor's Involvement/Ownership
#2. Halo Effect (Wrong Man for the Job)
#3. Poor HR Management
#4. Poor/Inadequate Project Communications
#5. Ignoring Project Stakeholders
#6. Absence of Risk Management
#7. Scope Creep/Unrealistic Expectations ( scope creep: Frequent and uncontrolled changes in the scope or requirements of a project) #8. Lack of Monitoring of Plan
#9. Absence of a Project Management Methodology
#10. Simple BAD LUCK :)

You may feel free to chose any of the above and/or add a cause from your own experience that you think is the most recurring reason for project failure.

Looking forward to sharing & learning.
[Mathew@PM4K] @

Karl Kerr

Project Planner at Knorr-Bremse Rail Systems UK Limited


Wow a great question and one that should generate plenty of feedback!

I have worked on many projects in my time in the following sectors: Nuclear, Public Sector, Rail & Telecommunications.

They all have one thing in common: they have in place Project Management systems and processes and plan to succeed! However with all best intentions they usually ''fail'' to varying degrees.

You highlight perfectly the typical examples that are all to common and oft repeated.

I can cite an extreme example of a project failure:

There were seven state funded Research Bodies all running their own individual payroll, procurement, pensions & HR functions. A decision was made to combine these functions into a shared service (SSC). A company was created that would eventually take delivery of and manage this combined service.

The Research bodies were very reluctant to comply with a ''one size fits all'' arrangement. (There were research functions as diverse as Arts to Engineering and Environment to Social Sciences).So we had from the beginning poor Stakeholder ownership. Involvement was varied from truculant to compliant.

Then there was the Vendor Issue! Two high profile companies were involved in the database platform and desktop/back room hardware. There were twelve functional workstream leads in the Programme team. There was a Programme PMO. One vendor had its own PMO, the shared service company had a PMO.There were two lots of consultant firms embedded in the PMO and Programme workstreams. There was a layer of executive Programme Managers.

The programme as you can imagine suffered from scope creep or actually scope cuts to meet continuing slipping go-live dates.

The Programme PMO has had in 18 months had seven different PMO Managers.

There was poor co-operation between the different Programme entities. Nobody seemed to have overall authority and lack of accountability allowed the Programme to severely slip and go over over budget. The Programme Director eventually resigned closely followed within a month by the Programme Assistant Director.

This Programme is still ongoing and has survived since it is being paid for out of the public purse. It would have been culled last year if this had been a private sector Programme!

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Anish Mathai Mathew [PMP|MBA]

Temenos T24 PROGRAM MANAGER at Union National Bank

@Karl: Thanks for your comment and the great example. Guess in that case you'd agree that LUCK (no matter how small), does play a role ;)

[Mathew@PM4K] @

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Nico Viergever

Independent Management Consulting Professional / Trainer PRINCE2 MSP

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