Project Management

The Top Ten Reasons Projects Fail (Part 5)

Frank Winters has more than 30 years of consulting and Information Technology experience serving as a project/program manager, consultant and IT service industry executive.

Many times, projects take on a life of their own. They somehow get funding and a descriptive name, probably because there is a perceived need for action. A project might be called "The General Ledger Rewrite Project" and, because there is a burning need in the mind of some higher-ups, initial funding is granted.


Funding in a situation like this is often based on a set of undocumented assumptions regarding what the project will produce. Next, a project manager is assigned and--as often as not--told when the first release of the new system is expected.


Sounds like a recipe for disaster, and it is. The ambiguity of the requirements in a scenario like this is compounded by the almost certainly unrealistic, mandated delivery date. Ambiguity is like corrosion in projects, eating away at the team's credibility and at the probability of having a successful outcome. Project failure is a forgone conclusion. Or is it? What can and should be done?


Funding is the life blood of projects

Let's look on the bright side. The scenario outlined above has one or two silver linings:

  • Initial funding is approved
  • There is a project with a purpose, albeit a vague one
  • Initial funding is approved!


What is missing from this happy picture is clear, mutually agreed direction and the means to measure the degree of project success. If this is not corrected, there is a …

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"But the fact that some geniuses were laughed at does not imply that all who are laughed at are geniuses. They laughed at Columbus, they laughed at Fulton, they laughed at the Wright brothers. But they also laughed at Bozo the Clown."

- Carl Sagan