Project Management

The Blame Game: It's Not Always the Project Manager's Fault

David Whitemyer

The number of factors that can push a project toward failure is almost limitless. An unrealistic schedule, budget shortfalls, scope creep, even internal politics can wreak havoc on—or ultimately doom—a project. Sorting out the root cause of the problem amid the wreckage of a failed project isn’t always easy, though, and oftentimes the finger of blame gets pointed at the most convenient scapegoat: the project manager.

While it may be easy to saddle the project manager with the blame for failure— the job title alone implies ultimate responsibility—the true reasons for an undesirable outcome usually run deeper than just one person.

Project management analyst firm Mosaic Project Services Pty Ltd identified 29 commonly cited reasons for project failure and found that only seven fell exclusively in the realm of project management. The other 76 percent came under the purview of the organization’s general and executive management.

The line between success and failure—and, in turn, profit and loss—is razor thin, and identifying the correct problematic project leaders makes a difference on the bottom line. Conversely, finding the true source of failure can prevent organizations from unwittingly pinning the blame on valuable talent.

Pointing Fingers

Legendary statistician and management consultant William Deming …

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You can say any foolish thing to a dog, and the dog will give you a look that says, "My God, you're right! I never would've thought of that!

- Dave Barry