There are many different reasons why projects fail and if you stay in the project manager role for very long you are almost certain to come across some of them. It is good to be aware of the most common reasons of course, as this means that you have a better chance of avoiding them in the future.
Poor Scope Definition
The early days are vital in any project. This is when the scope is worked out and a clear idea of the scale of the work starts to fall into place. If this is done badly and the scope is left poorly defined then this is just storing up trouble for later on. All new project managers hear about the dangers of scope creep, which is when the amount of work included in the project just keeps on growing and growing. However, there is also the possibility that you will have underestimated the scope at the start and need to try and adjust as you go along. In either case, knowing what you are dealing with at the start is the only sensible way of driving on the project.
It would be great to do the best project ever and solve everyone’s problems in one fell swoop but we also need to be realistic. There is a limit to what can be done in a single project and you might need to leave a few things on hold for future pieces of work. It might be that you have your work cut out to keep the ambitions of the project in check, as it could be that the stakeholders are the people who want you to fit everything which needs improved under this one umbrella.
Badly Written Plan
The project plan is basically the most important piece of information you will have throughout the project. It is something you will design in the early days and you will use it on a regular basis right until the end of the piece of work. This means that it is a hugely important document and one which you need to get right. The first time you need to come up with a project plan it will probably be a bit of a daunting prospect. It is not something which you will want to do in a hurry and you will want to take into account the feedback and suggestions you get from other people involved in the work before you try to get it signed off. The sign-off process means that it will not be subject to change control but that doesn’t mean that it has to be an immovable object. You still need to update it to reflect changes in the project, as long as you respect the change control process.
Lack of Resources
Even with the best will in the world a good project manager can’t be expected to do it all on their own. You will need the right resources If you are going to make a success of the role. In the first place, this means having a strong project team. It will be a big help if you have at least a couple of experienced project team members but on some of the less intense projects you might be able to train everyone up on what they need. Apart from the people side of things you also need to consider the other resources such as office space and equipment. Will the budget cover it all and is there time to get it all sorted out?
Every project has risks but the big danger is in not being clear about them from the very beginning. If you know what a risk is all about then you can get a handle on it. On the other hand, if something crops up along the way then you might not have the chance to react and change your plans in time. Some new project managers don’t spend enough time thinking about risks and issues but it is definitely an area which needs a bit of thought put into it. You want as few unknowns floating around your project as possible, and the best way of achieving this is by getting everyone involved to think about all of the possible risks they can come up with. You then need to manage and monitor these risks throughout the entire project lifecycle, to see whether they are becoming more or less of a threat to your objectives.
Did we miss any? Please let us know in the comments section below if you have other reasons to add to the list.
Stay up to date with the latest Project Management tips and information.