An abandoned building representing a failed project.It is a sad fact of life that projects sometimes fail. This would be scary if they failed for random and unfathomable reasons but the truth is that the same reasons keep on appearing time after time and on project after project.

If you know what the top reasons for project failure are then you are far more likely to be able to steer clear of them, so it is a good idea to find out what they are before it is too late.

A Lack of Resources

Resources have a funny way of disappearing when you most need them. If we are talking about human resources then you will find that your team members end up stretched and pulled all over the place once the work starts to pick up in earnest. In terms of other resources such as office equipment, it can be important to plan well ahead and order anything you are going to need a long time before you actually need it.

Project Plan Ignored

So, you go to the trouble of drawing up an excellent project plan and then what happens? In a lot of cases it gets ignored when the going gets tough. In some cases this might not be a conscious decision. It could be that with so much going on you feel as though you don’t have the time to update and amend the project plan. If this is the case then once you get round to looking at it again it might be too far out of date for you to be able to spend the time needed to get it back in shape again. There are some very good reasons why we need a good, up to date plan and if you ditch yours at some point then you will soon regret it. You should get into the habit of looking at it regularly and making sure that it is still on track.

Stakeholders Not Involved Enough

You might look upon the stakeholders as a necessary evil but without their involvement it is going to be a lot more difficult to get the project through to a successful conclusion. One of the first things you need to do when you get started is to make sure that the stakeholders buy into the project. They will be needed to sign off changes, to help solve issues and to basically smooth the way for you, so it is definitely in your best interests to have them on board and feeling that they are part of the project rather than being on the outside looking in.

Not Keeping on Top of Risks and Issues

It is extremely unlikely that your project sails through from the initial planning stages to completion without any problems. This means that it is imperative that you keep on top of your risks and issues and don’t let them run out of control. Your first step should be to set up an issues and risks log before the project starts. It is then a question of keeping it up to date as you go along. New risks are sure to appear and some of them turn into real issues so you will have your hands full making sure that you know where things stand at all times. If you don’t do this then there is a strong possibility that one of the risks sneaks up on you and causes mayhem with your plans.

Scope Creep

Even if you are new to the world of project management you have probably been warned of the dangers of the infamous scope creep. This is where a project grows arms and legs and ends up becoming completely unmanageable. If you are working in your first project manager role then it can be difficult to turn down stakeholder requests for an increase in the scope. However, you really need to be able to do this in order to have a chance of a successful conclusion to the project. This is one of the biggest reasons for projects failing and the worst part of it is that it usually appears that you have everything under control. Then you accept a change request to do a little bit of extra work and then another and before you know it milestones have slipped and the entire piece of work is in danger. You need to be clear from the start about the dangers of scope creep and then analyze each new change request you receive before agreeing to it or not.

I would love to hear about your project failures in the comments. And please tell me if I missed any top reasons for project failures!