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Managing Failure in Project Management

In this post from Genius Project, part of Arras People’s project management software directory, we take a look at project failure – take time to have a look at how project management tools are part of the solution to help project practitioners tackle project failure rates.

What if failure could make us stronger?

Back in November of 2016, the PM Summit in Munich concluded with a round table discussion amongst project management professionals, PPM specialists and a mountaineer. Together they explored the subject of failure and exchanged their perspectives on the lessons that failure can bring to project management.

The opposite of success: failure

The first step when talking about failure would be to define success. A study carried out by the PMI (Project Management Institute) in 2015 showed that 45% of projects are not delivered on budget, 7% are not completed on time and 56% do not meet expectations.

The success of a project can only be defined if there are clear goals to be achieved by the project team and the project. According to Kai Krämer, Consultant at Genius Project, ”it’s important to set the objectives of a project from the start”. The success of a project can also be defined by looking at the results in comparison to the expectations.

The positive side of failure

Projects do fail. This is often due to a lack of communication, organisation or preparation. However, these causes can often be improved, provided they have been identified.

In many organisations, when a project is not delivered as planned, we look for those responsible, and attempt to quickly move on to the next project; we don’t often take the time to really understand what went wrong. However, it’s important to talk about failures, to analyze them and to understand their causes.

In fact, it’s essential.

This analysis provides the opportunity to improve the effectiveness of the organisation, and from a personal point of view, it can be interesting to see how each person addresses the challenge. Understanding the failure makes it possible to move towards a solution and to retain the lessons so that everyone can do better the next time.

Some tips to better manage project failures:

  • Learn how to talk about failures as a team, with the stakeholders and all the people involved in the project
  • Take a step back as not to confuse strategy errors with personal ones
  • Analyze the causes that led to the failure
  • Establish a plan to remedy the project or to complete the project optimally
  • Identify the first signs that may point to failure in reporting
  • Hold onto the lessons of what worked

Failure is a recurring theme in project management. Some software makes it possible to maximize the management of projects and thus to limit the projects that fail. For more information, please visit the Genius Project website.

About Lindsay Scott

Lindsay Scott
Director of Arras People, the programme and project management recruitment specialists. You can find out more about Arras People and follow me on Twitter and Google I also write the careers column for PMI's Network magazine and other project management organisations too. Recently created the first PMO Conference and currently running the PMO Flashmob

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