Preparing a project
Preparing a project

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Preparing a project

2 Why projects fail – the dimensions of failure

Unfortunately, projects are not always completely successful and the consequences of an unsuccessful project can be significant politically, financially and socially for organisations and for the people who carry out the project. Considering the key dimensions of a project (budget, time and quality) there are three obvious ways in which one might fail:

  • it might run over budget (or have to stop before the goals are achieved because of insufficient funding)

  • it might take much longer than planned to achieve the goals (or might have to stop when time runs out before the goals are achieved)

  • it might be completed within the time and budget available but fail to meet the quality requirements (and so be of lower value than expected).

There are other things that lead to the failure of a project:

  1. the project objectives were not clear to the team;

  2. it was not clear to the team what the outcomes of the project should be;

  3. the project was over budget;

  4. the project activities ran late;

  5. certain outcomes of the project have not been achieved;

  6. the users were not consulted about their needs;

  7. the training needed to get people to work differently has not been considered. (If a project is supposed to lead to successful implementation of a new way of working, the training needs of staff are an essential consideration.

Problems such as these lead to the failure or abandonment of many projects.

Activity 2

0 hours 10 minutes

From your experience, make a list of the most important factors that have contributed to the success of any projects in which you have been involved. Which three factors would you rank as most important?


You might have identified sufficient time and resource, especially if you have been involved in urgent projects. You may also have identified the importance of clear objectives – particularly if you have experience of working with unclear objectives and of the misunderstandings that can arise from initial confusion.

Factors that have been identified as important to the success of projects include:

  • Making sure that the objectives are clearly defined

  • Having senior management support

  • The allocation of sufficient time and resources

  • Skills of the project manager

  • Good communications

  • Advance planning and monitoring methods

  • Communicating with stakeholders


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