Project Management

Infamous PM Failures

Michael R. Wood is a Business Process Improvement & IT Strategist Independent Consultant. He is creator of the business process-improvement methodology called HELIX and founder of The Natural Intelligence Group, a strategy, process improvement and technology consulting company. He is also a CPA, has served as an Adjunct Professor in Pepperdine's Management MBA program, an Associate Professor at California Lutheran University, and on the boards of numerous professional organizations. Mr. Wood is a sought after presenter of HELIX workshops and seminars in both the U.S. and Europe.

Everyone loves a good project management horror story--especially ones where the writing was on the wall and failure so very predictable. Whether the story relates to a specific project or an entire Project Management Office doesn’t matter just so long as it is over the top. So, with the season in mind, here are a few of my all-time favorites…

To start with, consider this string of IRS IT project failures paid for by U. S. tax dollars. These boondoggles date back decades. Here are some highlights found in an article by Albert B. Crenshaw, entitled “A Struggling IRS Collects Its Fair Share of Problems”:

“The IRS has been trying for nearly two decades to update its antiquated computer systems. After three false starts and $3.5 billion in expenditures, it still does much of its work on 1960s-era mainframes and is nowhere near the fully integrated system it dreams of. While much of the $3.5 billion went for systems that did work and for things that can still be used--communications systems, for example--about $400 million of it was simply wasted.”

That is quite a chunk of change. The most recent failure was only a mere $10 million. In his article “US Internal Revenue Service Terminates Critical $10 Million IT Project Just Before Deployment”, Robert Charette provides a brief overview of this failure:


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