Project Management

Silver Linings: Capturing lessons learned turns project failure into long-term success

Matt Alderton, and PM Network

Project failure comes in all shapes and sizes. Mexico City’s US$13 billion airport project was canceled in October even though 37 percent of the work already had been completed. And in February, an ambitious high-speed rail project in the U.S. state of California was dramatically scaled back after costs more than doubled in the past 10 years. In the private sector, Kinder Morgan canceled a project in October to convert a 964-mile (1,551-kilometer) natural gas pipeline in the United States to carry fracking byproducts—after four years of planning. The culprit: The team failed to convince local stakeholders in multiple states of the project benefits.

Fifteen percent of projects were deemed failures, according to PMI survey data collected in 2018. Yet when bad things happen, it’s up to project and program managers to capture the value from an otherwise negative outcome. Whether the misfire occurred during a signature phase in a high-stakes megaproject or in the middle of a simple sprint, project professionals need to deconstruct what went wrong to ensure mistakes aren’t repeated.

"Obviously, failure is always bad. When it happens, it causes frustration and losses," says Antonio Elianti, PMP, senior project manager, Provincial Health Services Authority, Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada. "But if …

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Conformity's an obsession with me.

- George Costanza