Post-Mortem of a project failure

Post-Mortem of a project failure

Pradip, PMP

Last updated December 19, 2017


All of us execute a project and it is not necessary that the project will be successful every time. The project can fail at any moment. What to do in that case? Who is responsible for this moment? Remember that a project success goes to the credit of the entire organization while the blame for a project failure goes to the project manager only. A project could fail due to several causes, like insufficient information, insufficient budget, lack of resources, poor quality of the delivered output, continuous rework, poor communication and many others.

A project manager should be on alert while executing the project as the blame for failure goes to the project manager directly without any excuses. Now the big question can be raised – what should a project manager do in the situation of a project failure? Should she or he resign from the position and quit? Obviously not, s/he should work on the post mortem of the project failure. Why did this project fail? Who else are responsible for the same? Was the budget sufficient enough to run the project? Let me discuss some important reasons for the project failure which can be beneficial for your project as well.

No requirement of the project:

This can be one of the reasons for the project failure. At the inception stage the project was required by the customer as it was a requirement at that moment. May be gradually the importance and requirement of the project vanished and it is not required any more now. The customer can stop the project at that point. What you should do? As a smart project manager, you should document the lessons learned from this project and should document those at a place to be used in the future. The project manager is not directly responsible for the debacle.

Insufficient funds:

One of the most important reasons for project failure is insufficient funds. Note that insufficient funds do not mean that there is no more money for executing the project. It can be that the project can’t be processed now with the existing funds or planned funds; you need more money now to run the project. The project sponsor is not convinced and is not ready to give more money. As a project manager you should work on CPI (Cost Performance Index) with your open eye. Try to maintain this very close to one or even more than one. Remember that if you are maintaining it at more than one; your position is super like. You can plan in a different way to execute the project if you are under budget. If not, you have already invited trouble for your project. Take care of that. You should diagnose the process if your project fails mid-way. Whether your planning was good enough to execute the project.

Fail to understand the actual requirement of the project:

Are you able to ask so many questions to your customers or other key stakeholders on the project requirement? If your answer is yes; you are doing excellent. At the initial stage you should gather as much information as you can for the project. Actually you should gather information to decide what work you need for the project and what work you should not do for the project. This division is very important for a project manager. A project manager should work on the scope of the project effectively as this will the backbone of the project. Mind you, maximum projects fail only due to insufficient information on the project. You should learn what the actual scope of the project is? What type of resources (Man, Machine, and Materials) you need for accomplishing such scope. This is very important to know really – what you are doing for the project. I have seen several times that a project manager is working on the project honestly without knowing much about the project. This is horrible! You should gather information on the project at the initial stage and should plan your project accordingly. Otherwise, your project is going to definitely end in negative shape. You should consult with your customer on a regular basis if there is a matter of scope creep.

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About the Author

Pradip Dwevedi, PMP is currently the Lead PMP Trainer / Corporate Trainer at Reputed Global R.E.P.s, India and also the Head – Project Management at Invida Trans IT Solutions PVT LTD. Prior to this, he was Divisional Manager at Stylo Graphic Imaging and before this he was working as Facilitator/Team Leader at Aptara.

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