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The Pervasive Problem: Why Do Projects Fail?


Author and entrepreneur Scott Allen famously said that a project is complete when it starts working for you rather than you working for it. 

Despite careful planning and concerted efforts, we all know that projects often fail to meet their intended goals. Often, because of this insight – project failure results because teams become overwhelmed by the project’s demands rather than being focused on its purpose. When as focused as we are on what works, we also learn what doesn’t. Past setbacks enhance future initiatives. We make a virtue of understanding and recording the root causes of project failure. This article highlights the primary reasons projects falter, spotlighting common pitfalls and providing advice on sidestepping them. 

The Perils of Inadequate Planning and Scope Definition 

  • Insufficient planning and ill-defined project scopes are the principal culprits of project failure.  
  • Project teams that rush into implementation without a well-defined roadmap are more likely to face challenges. 

The fallout?  

Missed deadlines, budget blowouts, and scope creep are all driven by incorrect resource allocation, ambiguity, and unrealistic expectations stemming from poor planning. 

  • We’ve learned that our project managers invest sufficient time and effort into comprehensive planning to combat this.  
  • This means delineating the project’s objectives, scope, and deliverables and crafting realistic timelines and budgets. 

The Detrimental Effects of Poor Communication and Stakeholder Management 

Effective communication is the bedrock of a solid project management strategy.   

  • Projects often flounder when team members, stakeholders, and project sponsors are not consistently and transparently connected.  
  • Issues with stakeholder management, communication breakdowns, and misaligned expectations will trigger delays, conflicts, and project failure. 
  • Project managers must keep all stakeholders abreast of the project’s progress, challenges, and changes while cultivating open communication channels and scheduling regular meetings. 
  • Transparent communication ensures everyone is in sync and fosters collaborative efforts. 


The Consequences of Inadequate Risk Management 

Failure is practically guaranteed when risks are not properly identified, evaluated, and managed.   

  • Numerous potential risk sources, including technical issues, resource constraints, market volatility, and external influences, lurk in every project.  
  • If these risks are not proactively handled, they can morph into major problems leading to project failure. 
  • Success entails utilising risk management strategies, incorporating risk identification, analysis, mitigation planning, and contingency preparations.  
  • By consistently monitoring and managing risks throughout the project’s life, teams can mitigate the probability and impact of potential roadblocks. 


The Downfall of Insufficient Resource Allocation 

Projects also falter when resources, such as personnel, time, and budget, are improperly allocated.  

  • The repercussions of insufficient resources include overworked team members, missed deadlines, compromised quality, and escalated stress levels. 
  • We conduct detailed resource assessments, considering the availability and skillset of the necessary resources for the project.  
  • The right resources must be assigned to the right tasks at the right times allowing project teams to maximise efficiency, productivity, and, ultimately, project success. 


The Hazard of Scope Creep and Shifting Requirements 

Scope creep refers to uncontrolled changes or additions to the project’s requirements, often due to poor change management or lack of stakeholder consensus on project boundaries.   

  • When scope creep hits, project teams struggle to deliver on time and within budget, and the initial goals become blurred.  
  • To minimise scope creep, we establish a robust change management process encompassing accurate documentation, impact analysis, and stakeholder sign-off for any scope modifications.  
  • We revisit the project’s requirements regularly and involve stakeholders in decision-making to help keep scope creep in check. 


The Challenge of Absent Accountability and Leadership 

Success in a project relies on strong, engaged leadership and a culture that values accountability.   

  • When roles and responsibilities aren’t clearly outlined, it can lead to a decline in motivation, impacting productivity and potentially causing the project to fail. 
  • To succeed, we must foster a sense of ownership among team members. We must delegate tasks and allow team members to take proper responsibility for outcomes. 
  • Encouraging responsibility, regularly reviewing progress, providing constructive feedback, and nurturing a positive work environment is crucial for maintaining the project’s momentum. 


“Success in project management has nothing to do with luck. It is a consequence of hard work, strategic thinking, and proactive execution.” – J Davidson.  

 NWT Techniques  

Involve the application of specific project management strategies, innovative technological tools, a unique communication style, or a proprietary process tailored to individual client needs.  

NWT is a trusted partner with extensive expertise in executing even the most complex project plans. Our strength comes from vast experience collaborating with diverse clients across multiple industry sectors.