August 15, 2015 | by Wayne Smith

Construction Project Management Part III: Why Do Projects Fail

In the last Construction Projection Management article we discussed several obvious success factors for meeting project objectives. In this article, we will address some of the issues that make projects fail. Let’s restate our project objectives so we have a reference point. Our project objectives are to deliver the project as defined, deliver the defined project quality requirements, deliver it on time and deliver it under or on budget.

Not meeting one or more of these objectives would constitute some degree of project failure. If the project builds a widget different from the planned widget, this would be a failure. It would also be a failure to not meet the planned quality requirements, finishing it late or over-running the budget.

Typical reasons for project failure can be divided into three groups. The first is the lack of business support, the second is inadequate human resources and the last is the poor knowledge or application of good project management practices.

Poor Business Support

If the project being considered is not in-line with the overall business strategy and priorities, its chances of success are low. Company managers will find it hard to release scarce resources for something that does not appear to be part of the general direction and emphasis of the company. This will inevitably give rise to the lack of management support and even negative support. Without management support, it is unlikely the project will have much of a life, much less a successful outcome.

Human Resource Issues

Since project management is a short-lived social endeavor; its success greatly depends upon the people involved. Staffing the project with the wrong people is a guaranteed path to failure. Inappropriate staff attributes may include poor work habits, poor work attitudes, lack of skills, little company and industry knowledge, no project management knowledge, etc. An important team attribute for success is that the members must have a healthy tolerance for a low sense of control and constant change. Projects are rather fluid endeavors.

Poor Project Management Practices

Poor project management practices will reduce the likelihood for a successful project. A frequent problem is the absence of a well defined, written project plan. An unwritten plan is a plan that is not well thought out, overly simple and typically unrealistic. The absence of project management skills and techniques will be manifest in poor or inadequate plan control, monitoring and reporting. The lack of monitoring and reporting will keep both the project team and the project’s stakeholders in the dark. Another common practice shortcoming is the neglect and/or poor use of software tools designed to plan, monitor and control project activities.

In our next article, we will begin to address the classic project phases, and their importance to project management.