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Avoid the Five Most Common Factors in Project Failure

Position your next project for success by understanding the potential pitfalls.


Project failures happen for a reason. Smart and successful companies identify why projects or programs failed so that they can correct their approach in the future.

According to an annual survey by the Project Management Institute (PMI), one in four strategic initiatives fail.1 That kind of loss can spell disaster for a company. The survey identified five factors predominantly responsible for strategic initiative failures so that companies can proactively design their projects for success. These factors include:

  1. Lack of clearly defined objectives and milestones to measure progress (37%).
    This suggests a lack of discipline and planning when launching a strategy, according to PMI. A project that doesn’t have measurable goals can easily begin to drift.
  2. Poor communication (19%).
    For a strategy to roll out efficiently, all players must be communicating effectively so that different elements don’t end up working at cross-purposes.
  3. Lack of communication by senior management (18%).
    Projects also need a clear vision from the boss to align with company goals and strategies.
  4. Employee resistance (14%).
    Employee resistance is often related to poor communication, especially from senior management. If workers don't see the purpose of their work or understand their role, they tend to be less productive and may even actively work against initiatives they don’t understand.
  5. Insufficient funding (9%).
    For a project to succeed, it must have the resources for it to be put fully in place. Trying to cut corners on a strategic initiative can end up hurting the company in the long run.

As companies identify more of their projects as strategic initiatives, it puts an emphasis on the need for success. Whether you’re a professional project manager or studying to become one, being aware of the typical causes of project failure can help you identify what needs to be done in order to reach your goals.

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