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Why Projects Fail

We have all seen the studies about “why projects fail.”  However, how often do we really think about how to rework these common mistakes and missteps?  Bernhard Kraft explains why some of the most common problems keep occurring as well as when they occur in the project process.   Kraft argues that issues can arise as early as the project definition phase:

This is where all evil starts.  In my view, most projects failures can be traced back to decisions made or not made during project definition.  Unfortunately, many organizations approach this phase with not enough rigor and discipline, or lack expertise to do a proper project and solution planning.  Let’s look at what needs to be done here.

Bernhard offers many bits of advice as to what needs to be done.  He suggests defining scope, defining solution, and getting suppliers on board, among many other things, during the project definition phase.  If any of those tips are ignored, project failure is likely to occur.

This leads to which failures are the most common.  Bernhard lists fuzziness around project intent and goal, wrong solution for the problem, and failing to get the right team as the first three most common reasons for failure.   It is clear that, if you are unsure of where your project is going, than failure may be in your future.   When a problem does arise, it is easy to slap a solution onto it instead of taking a second to figure out which solution is actually the most beneficial.  Taking that extra moment can make the difference between project failure and success.  If your team is not willing to do the work and figure out any issues that present themselves, which can often be the case, the project simply cannot succeed.

All of this may seem like common sense, but project after project continues to fail.  It seems that, just by listening to the simplest advice, this failure can be prevented.  It is better to learn from the mistakes of the past instead of being doomed to repeat them.


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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