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Top 4 ways to stop your Projects from Failing

There are countless resources, guidelines and tips on how to successfully manage projects. But one topic that’s not often covered involves project failures. Not many project managers are ready to admit failure. However, it’s still all too common to see project failures in project management and that’s why it’s essential to identify and analyse the potential risks and challenges before the project kicks off. By understanding the risks associated with the project’s goals they can more than likely be better managed.

Before we go far, one of the things I love to tackle is why projects fail. I developed this YouTube video I would love for you to check out. 

YouTube player

HaHaha… That’s funny to see such an old video. That video was done in 2009 and it was just put up on YouTube recently as a blooper film, but sadly it still has some of the same reasons today on why I am seeing projects fail. Let me know what you think?

In this article, I’ll identify 4 primary ways to help successfully manage them. Understanding them will hopefully better prepare you for your next one.

Schedule Management

1. Take time to plan: Successful project managers know that they significantly increase a project’s success when they allocate sufficient time to planning. They know the outcomes the project needs to deliver and how its success will be measured. They pay attention to detail and break down big goals into smaller ones. They identify the financial and human resources they need and share their expectations with their project team. They research the costs involved and then set and manage budgets. They know that inaccurate cost estimates can quickly exhaust funds causing parts of the project to be abandoned.

2. Regular progress and milestone management: Managing milestones and tracking progress towards them helps to identify which parts are off course and allows corrections to be made before it’s too late. Successful project managers assign and prioritise tasks and know that it’s critical to be able to manage people. They know which warning signs to look for and when the project is failing.

3. Good governance and leadership: Often project managers become so busy that they “don’t see the wood for the trees”. Allocating a project sponsor or senior manager to oversee progress and to ensure that the project manager has support and the resources they require will greatly benefit. Equally, they should be given responsibility for ensuring that the project’s scope and goals are fully understood. Often financial and human resources are scarce and many projects run concurrently and compete with each other. The project sponsor should be someone who has the authority to make decisions on which projects to fund and which ones to delay. They often can cut through red tape and remove obstacles.

4. Assign experienced project managers: Often projects are allocated to people who are very competent in their jobs but have little or no project management experience. A project manager may be assigned to a business critical or strategic project and will take on significant responsibilities. Successful projects are assigned to individuals who have the experience and have demonstrated they have the capabilities to successfully manage assignments.

These tips are just four basic means to help improve your project’s likelihood of success. Beyond them, there are countless other ways for developing greater value from your projects. But by implementing some of them in planning and executing your projects, you’ll be on your way towards delivering better performance and outcomes.

What do you think?

If you like this article, I wrote one on Organizational Change Management here, that I thought you would enjoy. Check it out here: Organizational Change Management – Why do Project Managers keep forgetting this? I have always found that change management is a critical component to the success of projects and feel that when more project managers embrace those concepts, they too will see more success in their projects. 

Thanks!
Bill Dow, PMP

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BillDow
Bill Dow, a PMP-certified expert in Project Management Offices (PMOs), has co-authored books on the subject. With over 20 years of teaching experience and having built 10 PMOs across 4 companies, including 13 years at Microsoft, he currently serves as the PMO Director at the University of Washington Medical.

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