There are some surprising statistics around project management. One is that 1 in 3 projects have no baseline, and that fewer than a third of all projects are successfully completed on time and on budget.
Despite low success rates, 97% of organizations believe project management is critical to business performance and organizational success. Obviously, businesses want their projects to be successful, however there seems to be a lot of room for improvement for many teams and project managers.
Here we have the most common reasons why projects fail, as explained by Jennifer Bridges, president of Optimo Inc. She has spent over 20 years observing project managers and knows what makes them either fail or succeed. Here is some of her insight into why most projects fail, and how to avoid falling into these mistakes.
Plenty of times project managers and their team will agree with stakeholders upon certain expectations, only to return to your respective desks or organization and talk about how little they understand their clients. This is one way that many teams go off course.
Even though you’ve agreed on paper, are you truly understanding your clients or stakeholders expectations? If not, further clarification is needed before you dive into a project.
This is where priorities get changed, or changes are requests, or people are committed to tasks that haven’t been approved by the change control board. Here are some ways you can keep the scope of your project from going off track:
- Monitoring the project’s status and baseline
- Comparing work performance measurements with the baseline scope and asking, “Is the current project aligning with the original plan?”
- Deciding on change requests, i.e. whether corrective or preventive action is needed
- Change requests need to be studied to see how they affect the project’s overall scope and cost baseline. Once approved, adjustments to baseline and cost are sent to stakeholders
In short, all changes that are processed need to be properly documented and communicated properly.
Beginning the project before approved baselining
As mentioned, 1 in 3 projects have no baseline, even fewer rebaseline after changes have been made. It’s a common scenario where managers will try to get projects started as soon as possible to gain headway, before the proper steps are in place.
This creates problems because people could begin working on things that are already out of scope, or budgets that were anticipated to be approved end up not being approved, or unforeseen changes occur before the project is approved, making all previous work that had started a wasted effort.
Make sure expectations are aligned and your baseline has been created, discussed, and approved by all parties before any work begins.
Inexperienced or untrained resources
Many companies today are trying to do more with less, which often means team members are too inexperienced or untrained in a certain area. The estimates that are created will need to reflect the abilities of those on your team: how long does it take them to complete a certain task? Do they have the resources to successfully complete their deliverables? Part of successful project management is making sure your employees have the adequate training or resouces to do their tasks.
Team conflict can lead to project failure
As a project starts to fall behind, emotions run high and situations become tense, causing team members to lose patience and get snappy with each other. Conflict can come up for a number of reasons, especially if different people are relying on each other to finish their tasks.
If team conflict isn’t handled, it can further derail a project and potentially cause it to fail. Working in a tense environment where everyone is short with each other will also hurt communication and productivity that enables a project to come out on time and on budget.
Another reason projects fail is when team members aren’t being used effectively. Know the strengths of each member of your team and then make assignments accordingly. When people are doing what they love, they do it quicker and with better quality. Don’t simply use hierarchy or some other way of assigning roles and tasks – look at the skills and interests of your team and use them wisely.
Your team doesn’t have to be the 1 in 3. By being aware of these project management pitfalls, you can help get your team stay on course and end your projects on time and on budget.