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Why Your Projects Fail

by Magdalena Fladl, 23.06.2017

There are many reasons why projects fail. Companies often find pitfalls with projects due to poor planning, misunderstanding financials and ignoring risk management. Here are some ideas on how to avoid them and, if you are already in one, how you can climb out of it.

How to Avoid Project Meltdown

It is not uncommon for projects to fail. The main cause of failure is attributed to management problems, regarding the way a project is approached. There is an infinite number of reasons why projects may fail. Here are the top 6 reasons why your project fails and what it takes to succeed:

Top 6 Reasons for Project Failure

Schedule Delays

A lack of a solid project plan concerning time management and poorly defined project goals often lead to a failure of the project in the end. Final deadlines that are impossible to meet because of too much work and a lack of time, as well as unrealistic expectations, are causing the project to fail.

Client Changes

When a client decides to change their priorities during the project, it certainly leads to a raise in costs and also to an extension of the prior set time frame. Clients, stakeholders, or sponsors of the project, might change or add something to the project in the middle of the process, which is one of the most common reasons for a project not to succeed.

Budget Overruns

Insufficient organisation of the budget puts the project at risk. Calculated costs in early stages of the project may seem to look fine at first, but underestimating the extent of the project and not having a financial backup plan for unexpected mistakes that might occur, can cause the budget to overrun quickly.


Even with solid project plans, unexpected problems or mistakes can occur. Although some mistakes don’t seem to be able to have such an effect or result on the project, some minor mistakes can not always be avoided, but they can already lead to a failure of the whole project.

Scope Creep

What is “Scope Creep”? Projects that have already achieved the main goals but keep adding small adjustments to an uncontrolled point, where they can either lead to an extension of the time frame or to a failure of the project as well. Scope Creeps often emerge due to a lack of project boundaries, poor communication between everyone involved and changing market conditions. This often results in a budget overrun.

Ignoring Warning Signs

When it comes to a critical point where the project is likely to fail, one of the main reasons the project really does fail is because some may rather ignore the warning signs instead of dealing with the problem and finding a solution right away.

Results of Failing a Project

A project that doesn’t succeed can cause huge damage to your company, whether it results in damaging the image of the company or in a loss of clients due to delays of the schedule or budget overruns. Numerous projects that did not succeed have also threatened the existence of companies. Dealing with a failure of a project in the right way is as important as promoting a successful project. Even if the project finishes behind schedule, overruns the budget, fails to satisfy the customer or turns out not to succeed at all, there are valuable insights on what went wrong to keep in mind for the next project.

How to Succeed

Managing a project is an ongoing process of planning, concerning time management, budget management, risk management and so much more. To avoid a failure of your project, here are 3 Factors that will help your project succeed:


Even though the project needs a solid plan and structure, don’t micromanage every field of the project. Detailed and organized planning, setting realistic time schedules and goals to achieve step by step, is the best way to succeed. The planning process is ongoing. If anything does not turn out the way it was planned, you need to replan and adjust everything to the changes. The top two priorities in the field of planning are:

  • Time Schedule (Deadlines and when to meet which goals)
  • Budget Management (How to use your budget and resources effectively)

Teamwork and Communication

A clear definition of responsibilities and tasks helps everyone do their part of the project and reduces the risk of mistakes or deficient work. An open communication should always be one of the top priorities when working in a team, in order to give everybody a chance to talk about concerns or problems. Maintaining a comfortable atmosphere and working environment, and making sure the team gets along, helps everyone be more ambitious and excited about working on the project.

Risk Management

The prior mentioned reasons for failing often occur because of a lack of risk management. Risk management is all about being prepared and how to react when a problem occurs. The most important part of risk management is identifying and analyzing possible risks that might occur. Knowing potential risks right away makes it easier to deal with them later on.

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