Why Projects Fail: Project Management Lessons| By |Travis Barker

Project management process tools can be used to guide almost any project towards its goals. Functioning as the structure through which other tools, resources, and inputs are introduced the project management structure supports projects across different industries, product types, and technologies.

The five project management process groups function as ‘boxes’ to give guidance, structure, and support throughout each project phase. The phases include Initiating, Planning, Executing, Monitoring & Controlling, and Closing. Each project phase includes standardized inputs, tools & techniques, and outputs to support even the beginning project manager to be successful. But this is not usually enough.

Why Projects Fail: Dangers Inherent in the 5 Project Phases

The project management process groups and tools are interdependent. Implementing one of them without another may be the recipe for project failure.

  • If the team is ignored the project will suffer.
  • If the budget is ignored the project will not have the financial resources to deliver.
  • If the Roles are ignored the project will not have the authority to influence priorities.

The above list is just a few examples of why projects fail. The message here is that the project manager is more likely to be unsuccessful in their role if they do not have all the tools, resources, and processes needed to deliver the project.

Why Projects Fail: Dangers Inherent in the 5 Project Phases

As your project management office grows it may find itself inclined to take a short cut to solving project issues. Instructing the project team to add layer upon layer of the wrong project management tools, without considering the quality and appropriateness of those inputs, is more likely to lead to the frustration of the project goals than to realize them.

Project Management

The project management process groups are not a magical solution to a poorly designed project that lacks the necessary buy-in, resources, or roles. Instructing the project team to add a new:

  • Training plan
  • Work Breakdown Structure component
  • Project Dashboard component
  • Communications Plan
  • Etc.

Is comparable to adding more ‘boxes’ to the moving van but forgetting to add the contents. You may arrive at the new home but will not have the household goods, furnishings, and personal items to live the life that you intended. The project management ‘boxes’ are merely guidelines and thus empty at the onset of the initiation and planning phases.

Project Management

The first step to avoiding the trap of recommending more ‘boxes’ be added, or identifying more tools (‘communications plan,’ ‘training plan,’ etc.) as solutions, is to review the project charter (or other planning documents, if they exist) to determine if the commitments, roles, and responsibilities are being met. If they are not the solution may require revisiting the project commitments and deciding if the originally agreed upon foundational elements are present to deliver the project. The goal is to work smarter, not harder.

Understanding the project’s needs, requirements, constraints, and goals becomes a crucial dialogue throughout the project as changes are implemented. Without this dialogue the team is likely creating more work and pressure to perform without the correct tools & resources.

How is your team designing projects? Share your comments below.

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