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Recognizing Project Management Failure: Symptoms & Causes

written by: Ronda Bowen • edited by: Jean Scheid • updated: 7/28/2010

By learning to recognize the symptoms and causes of project management failure, you can stave off problems before they become a crisis of epic proportions. Learn about how to avoid project management failures in this helpful Bright Hub article.

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    What Is Project Management Failure?

    Avoid Project Management Failure! Project management failure is the inability to complete a project on time, on schedule, or at all. By implementing poor project management methodologies, projects can fail. Projects can fail because a risk obtained or because proper risk analysis techniques meant to avoid project failure were not implemented. Projects fail when managers don't take the time to create proper documents, and there are horror stories involving project management failure.

    In order to ensure that you are able to measure your success with your next project, it is important to recognize the symptoms and causes of failures in project management.

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    Symptoms a Project You Are Working on Might Fail

    When working on a project, it is important to recognize symptoms that your project is not going as planned. Here is a list of symptoms that your project may be headed toward failure:

    1. Your project is behind schedule - If your project is behind schedule, there are a few different solutions. You can crash or compress your project schedule - Crashing a schedule means that you put more resources on the project to help catch up to where you should be. Compressing the schedule means that you will complete certain activities for the project at the same time. Alternatively, you can extend the deadline for the project.
    2. Your project is way larger than you had anticipated - This is also known as scope creep. To avoid scope creep, take the time at the beginning of the project to fully define the project. An important part of any project plan is the project's scope statement. If you take the time at the onset of the project to define the project and construct a carefully thought-out scope statement, you can avoid this problem.
    3. Your team members argue more than they work - If your team members are bickering about who should do what or if they have personal conflicts, this is a sign that your project might fail. Take steps to resolve conflicts with your team members at the first sign of problems. Better yet, focus on solid team-building activities before starting your project.
    4. Your project is supposed to span over the course of a year, but in three months you've already used up more than half of your project's budget - If you're burning a hole through your project's allocated money, you may want to take time to pause and reflect upon what you need to do to get back on track. Performing an earned value analysis can help you to stay on track budget-wise in your project.
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    Causes of Project Management Failure

    While there are a few symptoms of project management failure, there are many causes of project failure. Here is a brief list of some of the most common causes for project failure:

    1. You have not created a risk management plan for your project - By failing to take risks in your project into account, you cannot possibly prepare for curve balls that might come your way. Do yourself a favor. Perform a risk analysis as a standard part of your project planning process. You won't regret the extra time spent. You may even wish to perform a risk audit on your project during the course of the project.
    2. Failure to communicate will cause problems in any project - Create a solid communication plan and execute it. You will also want to create a plan for communicating with your stakeholders to keep stakeholders in the loop.
    3. Rushing through the project planning process - You should take the time needed to carefully plan your project. If you are unsure of the steps of project management, you may want to review them. You may want to look into PMP Certification if you are hoping to use a standardized process. It will help your success rate.
    4. Failure to create a reasonable schedule, level resources, or budget properly.

    By being aware of common symptoms and causes of project management failure, you can help to ensure that your next project is a success!

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