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After a Project Failure

Having a project fail can bring you back to your elementary school days.   The teacher corrects mistakes and only gives you a check instead of a check plus and a smiley face sticker.   Up in the right hand corner of the paper in red pen the teacher writes “now you know what not to do next time.”   The value of improving future projects by correcting the mistakes of failed ones is the focus of an article by Gary Jackson.   Jackson suggests that strengthening your weaknesses is the first step to preventing future project failure:

When a project fails, it can help you to pinpoint the weaknesses that led to the project's downfall.   When you don't know what your weaknesses are, it can be difficult or even impossible to work on them and strengthen those areas.   Take the time to carefully examine which parts of the project seemed to flow the least smoothly and/or seem to be the most difficult, and learn how you and your team can improve.

Perhaps a weakness you discover lies more with the team than the project itself.   Jackson suggests finding the ideal balance of “idea people” to more practical thinkers.   If this reevaluation is not successful, it may be time to assemble a new team.   Once your team is in place, examine your strategies.   If you don't have any, get some.   Organization and strategic implementation are your ticket to successful project completion.

Every project manager would be doing cartwheels if cost was not a concern.   This is why you never see project managers doing cartwheels.   You can learn things about future projects from a failed budget.   Either spending was too high and you need to control costs more in the future, or what you were demanding of your team with the given budget was unreasonable in the first place.   Possibly you did not have a firm grasp on your end goals and you kept spending until you got somewhere.   As Jackson suggests when your end goals are clear and you have a viewable timeline, you will have a greater understanding of what is realistic and what may lead to another project failure.

Just because a project did fail does not necessarily mean that all components of it were wrong.   Jackson gives the example of a project running over budget.   When this happens, your team may develop capabilities as a result of this experience.   Also, sometimes the very best of efforts still lead to a failed project.   Whenever this happens, Jackson suggests future perseverance.   If you try harder next time, you just may earn your check plus with a smiley face sticker.


About Anne Grybowski

Anne is a former staff writer for CAI's Accelerating IT Success, with a degree in Media Studies from Penn State University.

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