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In 1995, Martin Cobb, then CIO for the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat, asked a question which has since become known as Cobb’s Paradox. He said: ‘We know why projects fail; we know how to prevent their failure – so why do they still fail?’

How to Use Project Failures to Your Advantage
If you let project failures keep you from conducting a project post mortem, you have already given up your opportunity to learn and take that first step out of the basement of defeat to the possibility of enlightenment above.

Based upon our latest project post mortem survey, most project failures can be tracked back to an unclear project definition phase.

The Top Nine Project Failures Related to Project Definition from Postmortem Data
Do any of these top nine project definition mistakes sound familiar?

  1. Business Case
    The business case and rationale was vague, tactical, debatable, or created in a vacuum.
  2. Goals
    There was some ambiguity between customers, management, project managers, and the project team regarding what they wanted to accomplish and why.How to set smart goals.
  3. Metrics
    While people generally knew what success would be, it was unclear how the success of the project was ultimately to be measured.
  4. Statement of Work
    Project deliverables, scope, approach, assumptions, timing, or budget were not formalized or agreed to by key stakeholders.
  5. Stakeholders
    It was unclear who the internal and external project stakeholders were and what they cared most about.
  6. Roles
    Project team members and stakeholders’ responsibilities and jobs were unclear, confusing, or shifting without explicit re-calibration.
  7. Sponsor
    Formal and authoritative sponsorship of the project was unclear or in name only.
  8. Resources
    There were not enough resources to meet key project objectives within the identified project time, quality, and cost parameters.
  9. Communication
    While communication occurred, there was no formal strategy or plan to ensure that information got to the right people the right information at the right time in the right way.


Big tech companies like Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon, and Microsoft have witnessed a spectrum of projects that, despite substantial investments and high hopes, dramatically failed.

“Yet these Tech companies have something common, which is their capability to learn from tremendous failures and come up with stronger, more successful projects”


  1. Google+ (2011-2019):Launched to compete with Facebook, Google+ struggled with low user engagement and data breaches, leading to its demise in 2019.🚫 User Engagement:Insufficient user interaction and retention.🕵️♂️ Privacy Concerns: Exposed user information due to data breaches.🤝 Competition: Could not match the user base of contemporaries like Facebook.
  2. Google Glass (2013): Introduced as a pioneering wearable, it faced backlash over privacy concerns and a high price point, eventually being discontinued for consumers.🕶️ Public Backlash: Raised significant privacy and safety concerns.💲 Price Point: Prohibitive cost limited its market.🛠️ Limited Applications: Lack of practical, everyday uses for average consumers.
  3. Google Wave (2009-2010): Aimed to revolutionize email, Wave suffered from a complex user interface and lack of clear purpose, leading to its discontinuation.🤔 Complexity: The interface and user experience were overly complicated.❓ Lack of Clear Purpose: Users struggled to understand its value proposition.📧 Email Dominance: Could not surpass the prevalence and simplicity of traditional email platform.


      Facebook (Meta)

  1. Facebook Home (2013): This Android layer disappeared quickly due to poor reviews and a confusing user experience.📱 Poor User Experience: Intrusive and hard to navigate.🌐 Device Compatibility: Limited to select Android devices.👎 Reviews: Overwhelmingly negative due to its intrusive nature.
  2. Facebook Deals (2011): Launched as a competitor to Groupon, it was discontinued shortly after due to a lack of interest.🛒 Market Interest: Failed to attract sufficient user and business interest.🤝 Competition: Struggled against well-established competitors like Groupon.📉 User Engagement: Lack of compelling deals and user engagement.
  3. Facebook Credits (2009-2012): Introduced as a virtual currency, it was replaced by local currency and Facebook payments due to limited adoption.💱 Adoption: Limited acceptance and use by users and developers.💰 Currency Conversion: Issues and complexities in currency conversion.🔄 Flexibility: Lack of flexibility compared to other payment methods.



1.Fire Phone (2014): Discontinued a year post-launch due to high pricing and overemphasis on Amazon’s ecosystem.💲Price Point: Failed to offer competitive differentiation.🛒 Ecosystem Limitation: Over-reliant on Amazon services.📱 Intrusive Features: Criticized for lack of utility and privacy concerns.
2. Amazon Register (2014-2015): A mobile credit card processing service discontinued due to intense competition and lack of market traction.🤝 Competition: Faced with well-established competitors like Square.📉 Market Traction: Struggled to gain significant market share.💳 Innovation: Lacked distinctive, innovative features.
3. Amazon Destinations (2015): Launched to offer hotel and getaway deals, it was shut down due to lack of differentiation and competition.🏨 Differentiation: Offered little to set itself apart from competitors.🌐 Competition: Struggled against established travel service providers.🛒 User Interest: Failed to attract and retain user interest.


1. MobileMe (2008-2012): Intended as a subscription-based suite of online services and software, MobileMe faced significant issues with usability and reliability, leading to its eventual replacement by iCloud.🌐 Reliability: Users experienced frequent and prolonged service disruptions.🤝 Usability: The service was criticized for its cumbersome user interface and lack of coherent integration.💡 Innovation: Outshone by emerging cloud services offering better functionality and user experience.

2. Apple Newton (1993-1998): One of the first personal digital assistants, the Newton was plagued by problems with its handwriting recognition and high price.✍️ Handwriting Recognition: The feature was unreliable and became the subject of media ridicule.💲 Price: The high cost of the device deterred potential buyers.🚀 Market Readiness: The concept was ahead of its time, but the technology was not mature enough to realize the vision effectively.

3.Apple Car Project (2014 – 2024) Key elements of the project included:🤝Self-Driving Technology: Apple aimed to set a new standard in autonomous driving. Initially, the company aspired to achieve a fully driverless vehicle.🚀Electric Vehicle Innovation: At its core, the Apple Car was to be an electric vehicle (EV), aligning with global trends towards sustainability and environmental responsibility.💡 Integration of AI and Machine Learning: The project was expected to leverage artificial intelligence and machine learning to enhance the driving experience, making it safer, more efficient, and more personalized. 🤝Strategic Partnerships and Talent Acquisition: Apple reportedly talked with various automotive  manufacturers and suppliers throughout its development. The company also recruited top talent from the automotive and tech industries, underscoring its commitment to the project’s success.



1. Microsoft Zune (2006-2012): Introduced to compete with iPod, Zune needed to make a significant impact in the portable music player market.🎵 Market Impact: Struggled against the dominating presence of Apple’s iPod.🔄 Integration: Faced challenges in software and marketplace integration.💡 Innovation: Lack of distinctive features and innovations.

2.Microsoft Kin (2010): Aimed at the social media generation, Kin phones were discontinued shortly after their release due to poor sales.📱 Sales: Extremely low sales compared to expectations.🌐 Target Audience: Struggled to connect with the intended young demographic.💲 Pricing & Features: Misjudged pricing strategy and lack of essential features.

3. Windows Phone (2010-2017): Microsoft’s attempt to enter the mobile OS market struggled against iOS and Android, leading to its discontinuation.📱 Ecosystem: Lack of apps due to the dominance of iOS and Android.🤝 Competition: Could not compete with established mobile operating systems.🚀 Market Entry: Late entry into the competitive smartphone market.


The Importance of Stopping Projects

The decision to halt the Apple Car project underscores a critical lesson for modern project managers: the importance of strategic withdrawal. Despite the potential and resources invested, several factors contribute to such a decision:

  • Financial Considerations: The project’s cancellation came after Apple reportedly spent over $10 billion. This significant investment without a clear path to market success exemplifies the high-stakes financial risks of pioneering new product categories.
  • Market Dynamics and Competitive Landscape: The automotive industry is notoriously competitive, with established players and emerging innovators. Apple’s entry into this space would have required technological innovation and navigating complex regulatory, manufacturing, and market challenges.
  • Technological Hurdles: Despite Apple’s technological prowess, the ambitious goal of creating a fully autonomous vehicle proved daunting. The shift in focus to a less ambitious Level 2+ autonomy highlights the technological and regulatory hurdles in achieving full autonomy.
  • Strategic Alignment: Ultimately, the project’s alignment with Apple’s broader strategic goals and core competencies likely impacted its cancellation. With a renewed focus on areas like artificial intelligence, Apple may have determined that its resources could be better allocated to projects with clearer synergies with its existing product ecosystem

(Antonio Nieto-Rodriguez 2023)

Defining Success

There will be a significant change in how we define the success and failure of  a project. This is one of the changes i discussed in previous years and i am reiterating the need for this change again becasue some companies are still reluctant to make this change necessary for critical improvements in project management.

For years, the definition of project success was the creation of project deliverables within the constraints of time, cost, and scope. While this definition seemed relatively easy to use, and is still being used today, it created several headaches. First, companies can always create deliverables within time, cost, and scope, but there is no guarantee that customers would purchase the end results. Second, everyone seemed to agree that there should be a “business” component to project success but were unable to identify how to do it because of the lack of project-related business metrics and how to effectively use business metrics. Third, this definition of project success was restricted to traditional or operational projects. Functional managers that were responsible for the strategic projects were utilizing their own definitions of project success, and many of these strategic projects were being executed under the radar screen because of the competition in the company for funding for strategic projects.

Because of the uniqueness in the definitions of success, project teams must communicate with customers at the start of the project, or even in the project’s conceptual phase, to understand the customer’s definition of success. Then, the project team and the customer will decide upon which metrics should be used to validate progress toward the client’s definition of success.

With the growth in new types of projects, especially strategic projects that require innovation and creativity, the chances of many of these projects failing is quite large. Executives and project governance personnel must provide project teams with the criteria for when to shut down a project. Without having failure criteria, project teams may spend excessive amounts of time on projects that may have no hope of creating the expected business value. By having failure or cancellation criteria, which may be different for each project, resources can be reassigned to more promising projects in a timely manner.

Identifying Metrics
There will be a significant growth in the number of metrics, especially business-related metrics, to be used on projects. When we discuss competing constraints, we must realize that every constraint will have a tracking metric and many of the new constraints are business-oriented constraints. The business side of projects will need to be understood much better than in the past. This will require significantly more metrics than just time, cost, and scope.

The new project business metrics must be able to be combined to answer questions that executives have concerning business and portfolio health. The list below identifies metrics that executives need to make decisions concerning business and portfolio health:

Business profitability
Portfolio health
Portfolio benefits realization
Portfolio value achieved
The mix of projects in the portfolio
Resource availability
Capacity utilization
Strategic alignment of projects
Overall business performance

Project-based business metrics must be able to be combined to create the list of metrics that executives and project managers need for business decision-making. Companies will need to have a metrics library since the number of metrics can become significant. Companies may use a set of “core” metrics that are required on each project but then establish other metrics unique to this project. Since each project has many different success criteria, the unique metrics must support the criteria for measuring and reporting success.

(Harold Kerzner 2023)


Article written by Harold Kerzner 21st June 2023


Article written by Antoni Nieto-Rodriguez 21st Sepetember 2023 –  85# – Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google,… also have failed Projects !!