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Real-Life Project Management Strategies that Fail and How to Prevent Project Failure

written by: Ronda Bowen • edited by: Jean Scheid • updated: 6/29/2011

This article discusses examples of failed projects and how each may have been saved with effective project management strategy.

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    Sometimes projects do not move along as planned. Sometimes projects completely fail. Many projects that fail do so because of poor project management strategy. This article looks at some real-life examples of failed projects and suggests how proper project management would have saved the project.

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    1. Poor Team Construction

    Shelly heads a team of five people. Because there are two other company projects with higher priority, staff is limited. Mr. Owner assigns Shelly three rookie resources and two veteran resources have volunteered to take on some of her project tasks. The two veteran resources are primarily working on other projects. After a significant amount of time, only one team member has completed any of their tasks accurately or on time. The two who are involved in other projects have not completed any tasks. One of the remaining team members has done work, but not accurately. The final resource moves slowly. Her project appears to have run stagnant.

    One way to avoid this problem is by executing effective team communication. There are many ways to do this: hold a daily Scrum, require weekly status reports, or utilize one of the many project management programs available. The more obvious way to avoid this problem is by building an effective team. Things to keep in mind while team building include: employee skill, experience, participation ability, the projects they are already working on (to avoid overallocation), and morale. Newer resources should be paired with mentors.

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    2. Unrealistic Scheduling

    Andy is dismayed when he finds out that his team is weeks behind on a project that needs to be completed yesterday. His client convinced him to push the due date up by three months. His team currently works overtime at least three times a week to push forward on the new, hastened, deadline. Numerous absences and mistakes plague Andy’s project. Finally, the client drops his company and decides to go in a different direction.

    Because Andy was flexible about deadlines and allowed the client to negotiate timing on the project, his project failed. With projects, it is important to set a realistic schedule and to stick with it. By overworking his resources, they burned out and stress caused health problems.

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    3. Unclear or Understated Objectives

    Jill finds that she is completely disappointed with the outcome of her latest software project. Her team members produced a deliverable that did not stand up to the standards she had in mind. The graphics lacked quality, and the game’s storyline fell flat. When she tells the team she had hoped for something better, they shrug and say, “We just did what you told us to do.”

    Had Jill clearly outlined the objectives for the software project, she would have received the quality she desired. Concrete, clear goal planning in project management cannot be emphasized enough. Without clear goals, a project will surely fail – and if it doesn’t fail, it will fall short of expectations.

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    By being aware of where projects fail, project managers can better use project management strategy to overcome these failures. Through using careful planning techniques, risk can be minimized.