Project Management

Your First Project Failed...Now What?

Andy Jordan is President of Roffensian Consulting S.A., a Roatan, Honduras-based management consulting firm with a comprehensive project management practice. Andy always appreciates feedback and discussion on the issues raised in his articles and can be reached at [email protected]. Andy's new book Risk Management for Project Driven Organizations is now available.

It’s a simple reality: Sometimes, projects fail. Despite the best efforts of everyone involved, not every project can be a success. The reasons are many, and at times completely unpredictable.

But if you are a new project manager, a failed project can be tough to deal with. It can create doubts in your mind over your ability to be a PM, make you question whether the things you did contributed to the failure, and undermine your confidence for the future.

That’s all understandable. I’ve had many failed projects during my career, and they have always caused me to look inward and consider whether I did something (or didn’t do something) that contributed to that failure. But I also ask myself those same questions when a project succeeds—I wonder if I could have done more to prevent problems, improve performance further, or avoid some of the stress and worry that everyone went through.

That’s all part of being a project manager; I don’t think many of us feel that we did a “perfect” job on any project.

An objective assessment
When a project fails, it’s important to understand why. As the project manager, you need to ensure that there is a comprehensive—and objective—post-mortem carried out that assesses what happened and tries to understand the underlying causes of those events. That process needs to …

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"If you would be a real seeker after truth, it is necessary that at least once in your life you doubt, as far as possible, all things."

- Rene Descartes