Major Reasons for Project Failure and Solutions to Solve Them - PM 360 Consulting
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Major Reasons for Project Failure and Solutions to Solve Them

Project Success and Failure

Major Reasons for Project Failure and Solutions to Solve Them

Project Success and Failure


The world of project management has changed over the last twenty years to meet the changing demands required by organizations, who are applying leaner operation models with fewer resources, risk adverse, project constraints and restricted budgets to deliver projects. Consequently, the need for management within organisations is to focus on choosing the right projects to add business value, benefits and return on investment is more important now than ever before. 

Consistent global research across a range of industry sectors shows that:

✔ 70% of all projects fail.

✔ 50% of projects around the world don’t finish on time or on budget.


Small Projects (less than $1 million) vs. Large Projects (more than $10 million)

Small Projects (less than $1 million) Large Projects (more than $10 million)
76% are successfully 10% are successful
20% are challenged 52% are challenged
4%   fail 38% fail

The bigger risk takers tend to enjoy the bigger wins, although there is obviously a lot more at stake and the losses will be considerable. However, it is possible to take measured risks, especially when you’re using a truly sound risk management strategy that aims to identify, monitor and control all known risks. It is, unfortunately, often the unknown risks that can bring a project to the point of collapse.

“Large projects are twice as likely to be late, over budget, and missing critical features than small projects. A large project is more than 10 times more likely to fail outright, meaning it will be cancelled or will not be used because it outlived its usefulness prior to implementation. 


What is a Project Failure?

The definition of project failure is more nuanced than it may seem at first glance. While a project that is discontinued unexpectedly is undeniably a failure, the threshold for failure can vary. It’s not just about projects that are scrapped or abandoned; it’s also about those that miss their deadlines, exceed their budgets, or fail to meet their original objectives. 

A project may be deemed a failure if: 

  • It doesn’t achieve its intended goals – If the project’s primary objectives are not met, it’s a failure. 
  • It exceeds its budget – Going over budget can be a clear sign of mismanagement and failure to accurately estimate costs. 
  • It misses its deadlines – Failing to meet project milestones and deadlines can have cascading effects, leading to project failure. 
  • It doesn’t meet quality standards – Even if a project is completed on time and within budget if the quality of the deliverables doesn’t meet expectations, it can be considered a failure. 


Common Reasons for Project Failure 

Understanding the common reasons for project failure is crucial for effective project management. Here are some of the most common reasons: 

Inadequate Planning – One of the reasons for project failure is inadequate planning. Rushing into a project without meticulous planning can set the stage for disaster. Without a clear roadmap, it’s easy to veer off course. 

Unclear Objectives – Another reason for project failure is unclear objectives. When project objectives are ambiguous or ill-defined, it’s challenging to gauge success, leading to confusion and misalignment. 

Poor Communication – Poor communication is also a reason for project failure. Ineffective communication can sow the seeds of chaos. When team members aren’t on the same page, misunderstandings and conflicts can derail progress. 

Scope Creep – Scope creep is a common reason for project failure. As project requirements expand beyond their original scope, it can lead to increased costs, delays and ultimately failure. 

Lack of Project Sponsor Engagement – Lack of project sponsor engagement is another reason for project failure. Failing to engage and involve key stakeholders can result in misinformed decisions and a lack of support when challenges arise. 

Inadequate Resources – Inadequate resources, whether it’s budget, people or technology, can hamstring a project and make success elusive. This is another common reason for project failure. 

Risk Ignorance – Risk ignorance is a significant reason for project failure. Neglecting to identify, assess, and mitigate risks can leave a project vulnerable to unexpected obstacles. 

Absence of Monitoring and Control – The absence of monitoring and control is another reason for project failure. Without a robust system for monitoring progress and implementing change control, projects can quickly go off track and start. 

Failure to Adapt – In today’s dynamic business environment, projects need to be flexible and adaptable.The rigidity can spell doom and is a common reason for project failure. 



Solutions For Project Failure – How to Avoid Them 

The good news is that project failure is not an inevitable fate. With the right strategies and solutions at your disposal, you can significantly enhance your chances of success. Here are some proven approaches, along with implicit suggestions on how to leverage features, capabilities, and benefits to mitigate the reasons for project failure: 

  • Comprehensive Planning – Embark on your project journey with a meticulous roadmap. Chart out your goals, timelines, resources, and potential hazards. A thorough plan is your safeguard against common threats like scope creep, resource inadequacy and overlooking risks. Arm yourself with project management software that serves as your command center for planning and progress tracking. 


  • Objective Clarity – Aim for unmistakable targets. Define project goals that are specific, measurable and in sync with your organization’s ambitions. Avoid the pitfalls of vague or unattainable objectives that can lead to confusion and stakeholder dissatisfaction. Utilize goal-tracking solutions that ensure your objectives remain in clear view. 


  • Transparent Communication – Nurture a habitat of openness and ongoing conversation among your team and stakeholders. Keep everyone informed and engaged with regular updates and opportunities for feedback. Adopt collaboration solutions that smooth out the communication process and facilitate document exchange. 


  • Scope Vigilance – Maintain a firm grip on your project’s scope. Be firm in rejecting changes that stray from the initial plan. Scope creep is a notorious culprit in project failure, leading to inflated costs, delayed timelines and compromised quality. Deploy scope management solutions that give you oversight and control over project changes. 


  • Stakeholder Involvement – Secure stakeholder commitment from the start. Their support is crucial for informed decision-making and sustained project momentum. Implement stakeholder management systems that encourage active participation and gather valuable feedback. 


  • Resource Optimization – Allocate the necessary resources, both budgetary and human, to fuel your project’s success. Scarcity of resources can obstruct progress and diminish quality, paving the way for failure. Employ resource allocation solutions that help you efficiently manage your budget and workforce. 


  • Proactive Risk Management – Prepare for potential risks with a comprehensive risk management plan. Neglecting to anticipate risks leaves your project exposed to unexpected challenges. Use risk management solutions that aid in identifying, assessing, and mitigating potential threats. 


  • Diligent Monitoring and Control – Keep a vigilant eye on your project’s trajectory with real-time monitoring solutions. Lack of oversight can lead to projects drifting off course, wasting valuable time and resources. Utilize control mechanisms that provide instant insights and alerts for timely interventions. 


  • Flexibility and Adaptation – Embrace change and be ready to pivot to keep your project aligned with its goals. An inability to adapt can render a project obsolete in today’s ever-changing business environment. Opt for project management solutions that support flexibility and quick responses to shifting requirements. 


  • Defined Accountability – Establish clear roles and hold team members accountable for their contributions. Ambiguity in responsibilities can result in missed deadlines and subpar performance. Implement role-based access systems that clarify duties and promote accountability.


In the quest for unparalleled project value delivery and success, predictive intelligence solutions take the lead, offering a prescient method to predict and mitigate potential obstacles. 



Article written by Padraig Friel MPM MBA IPMA-C CSM CMC PM360 Consulting 29th June 2024.


Article written by Nisha Antony 23rd December 2023