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WHY DO PROJECTS FAIL - Abridged Compilation

J Phani Krishna, B.Tech, MBA, MPhil, PGDIBM

Before we look into the actual content, just sneak through project execution style.

A project initiated with good plan prepared by a planner supported by functions. The
plan after series of reviews put-forth for executions ie implementation into reality. While
execution functions supports planner to monitor and control for any deviations in the
‘good plan’ if there is any deviation using MBE concept it is addressed and the plan will
be reviewed. After updating the plan from based ‘good plan’ again the cycle starts for
implementation. Some how at the end of certain time frame or budget frame or any
means the project reaches to the closure state.

This is simple and theoretical aspect of the project viewpoint.

But in real matter, project fails though process is still in place, project management
faces the odds against the situations in reality and should be managed to even it out.

There are many reasons why projects (both simple and complex) fail; the number of
reasons can be infinite.

Basic traditional approach for project execution and management model.

Reference taken from [1]

What is Project failure: To name a few the below list can be called project failure
Not meeting a established plan
Not meeting Clients viable needs and wishes
Not meeting Clients viable schedules, quality
Increased costs vs obtained fixed price
Increased reworks

Understanding the symptoms and problems while executing the project reveals the
definition for Project failure.
Even with the best of intentions or solid plans, project can go awry if they are not
managed properly. All too often, mishaps can occur (and usually do). This is when the
project manager must recognize a warning sign and take action. If clear understand on
the difference between symptoms and problems and can spot warning signs of project
failure, training will helps to take suitable steps.

The following are some of the industry expert’s practical experiences and abstracts of
their various researches; studies unwind the back drop of the reasons n Project failures.

Signs of project getting in crisis: Reference taken from [3]

1. Lack of Communication
2. Inadequate Project planning and Management of plan
3. Unstable requirements
4. Lack of training/Mentoring for managers/Leads
5. Unachievable/Unrealistic schedules
6. high turnover in project staff
7. Inadequate use of outside resources
8. Inadequate Work environment
9. Workforce tied to old technology
10. Lack of long-term commitments

Though the management gives systems and procedures to execute inline with its
business cases, management involvement as a case in project failure cannot be ruled out.

Management’s Seven Deadly Sins Why Projects Fail Reference taken from [2]

1. Mistaking half-baked ideas for viable projects

2. Dictating unrealistic project schedules
3. Assigning under-skilled project mangers to high-complexity projects
4. Not ensuring solid business sponsorship
5. Failing to break projects into manageable “chunks”
6. Failing to institute robust project process architecture
7. Not establishing a comprehensive project portfolio to track progress of ongoing
Though is research of long ago, it cannot be ruled out as the case is similar in this period
also. Due to advancement in technology and availability of sophistication the failures are
more evolving and new failures are erupting. Which are becoming challenging to the

KPMG Study (1997) Reference taken from [4]

– 87% of failed projects exceeded schedule > 30%

– 56% of failed projects exceed budget > 30%
– 45% of failed projects failed to produce expected benefits

WHY DO PROJECTS FAIL- Abridged Compilation, by J Phani Krishna, B.Tech, MBA, MPhil, PGDIBM
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– 3 Most Common Reasons for Project Failures

• Poor Project Planning

• Weak Business Cause
• Lack of Top Management Involvement and Support

The 10 Killer Flaws: Reference taken from [5]

1. Insensitivity
2. Acting aloof
3. Betraying trusts
4. Over managing
5. being overly ambitious
6. Inability to think long term
7. Inability to adapt to a new manager
8. Overdependence on a mentor
9. Making poor staffing decisions
10. Inability to deal with department's performance problems

Unfair to blame us for delay in power projects: BHEL, Economic Times dt.10 Jan 2010, 1517 hrs IST,

"BHEL is just an equipment supplier and at best this constitutes around 40-45 per cent of a power project, so
how can the entire blame be passed on to it," says an officer on condition of anonymity.

In the Tenth Plan, BHEL got around 50 per cent of the orders while the balance went to private sector
companies. While BHEL was able to deliver 80 per cent of its target despite bunching of orders, the private
sector could manage just about 50 per cent.

Even then BHEL was targeted by all quarters while private companies escaped criticism, they said.
A paper clipping that leaded to compile this document.

Quick list of the sources of the Project failures:

1. Poorly managed
2. Lack of a solid project plan
3. Centralized proactive management initiatives to combat project risk
4. Poorly defined roles and responsibilities
5. Team weaknesses
6. Poor communication
7. Overruns of schedule and cost
8. Scope creep
9. Ignoring project warning signs
10. Lack of management commitment
11. Lack of organizational support
12. Provides universal templates and documentation
13. Stakeholder conflict
14. Competing priorities

WHY DO PROJECTS FAIL- Abridged Compilation, by J Phani Krishna, B.Tech, MBA, MPhil, PGDIBM
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15. Business politics
16. Lack of prioritization and project portfolio management
17. Meeting end user expectations
18. Bad decisions
19. Undefined objectives and goals
20. Lack of user input
21. Enterprise management of budget resources
22. Inadequate or vague requirements
23. Unrealistic timeframes and tasks
24. Insufficient resources (funding and personnel)
25. Estimates for cost and schedule are erroneous
26. No change control process
27. Inadequate testing processes

Note : Reference taken from [7]


1. Importance of Project Management on resource utilization and delivery of quality

deliverables in various organized structures-Analysis: By J Phani Krishna

2. Management’s Seven Deadly Sins Why Projects Fail - Gopal Kapur, president of the
Center for Project Management (CPM)

3. ODTUG Conference 2004, Co-authors Dave Kempson, PMP, Dan Kwit, PMP

4. KPMG Study (1997)

5. Morgan W. McCall, Jr., Ph.D. - PM Flaws that Bring Career’s to Screeching Halt: The
10 Killer Flaws

6. Economic Times dt.10 Jan 2010, 1517 hrs IST, PTI

7. Reasons Why Projects Fail, By Tom Carlos PMP

About the author:

J.Phani Krishna, residing at southern state of India, Chennai having 8 years of

experience in Project Management field. He executed some of the considerable valued
projects in Power, Minerals, Sugar and heavy Engineering Manufacturing for various
companies while working with them.

He obtained Bachelors degree in Mechanical Engineering, after that completed Post

graduation MBA in Project Management. Currently pursuing M.Phil in management
discipline while working in a private MNC. As a part of curriculum he had authored three
papers including a practical project on shaper machine and two are theory papers related
to hydro power and group technology.

His interests cover, project management in complex projects, EPC contracts, exclusive
engineering projects at various levels. He can be contacted at

WHY DO PROJECTS FAIL- Abridged Compilation, by J Phani Krishna, B.Tech, MBA, MPhil, PGDIBM
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