Why do projects fail ?

Why do projects fail ?

A key question that do justify a TurnAround and influence how to manage the crisis and the TurnAround.

projects are going through crisis at some point in time. If you do not agree, you might live an ideal world or might not sense the crisis as such. How ever, projects do fail and will go through crisis or major TurnArounds.

There are various studies and perceptions out there, that try to analyze the reasons.

GPM (Gesellschaft für Projekt Management) released the results of a survey back in 2006. Here are the key reasons they outlined:

Project Start:

  • unclear requirements and targets
  • missing resources at the start of the project
  • inadequate planning

Soft Factors:

  • lack of skilled resources
  • politics, question of authority
  • poor communications
  • missing project experience at the leadership level
  • missing or inadequate Project Management Method and Processes
  • insufficient stakeholder management
  • lacking of top management support


  • technical requirements to ambitious
  • Others

Aaron Shenkar, one of the influencing leaders in project management and co-author of the book ‘Reinventing Project Management‘ is highlighting the following reasons:

  • scope creep
  • underestimated the effort
  • unexpected problems
  • weak communication, collaboration, motivation
  • fail to meet business requirements

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From his perspective it could be combined in the level of uncertainty that he is trying to capture and identify before hand in his diamond approach.

Kevin Baker from AIRBUS shares some insights why projects are going through crisis in his organization:

By looking at their projects, A&D Projects do fail in time and budget, that was the overall situation a couple of years ago. Different drivers have been identified:

  • Project Management Challenges
  • Technical Complexity
  • Talent Shortage
  • Supply Chain Challenges
  • Politics

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A Hays survey published in December 2012, highlighted by Lars Sudmann during the Project Zone Congress 2013 in Frankfurt, came to to following conclusion:

  1. Missing Objectives
  2. Decision Process
  3. Unrealistic Planning
  4. Implementation not …
  5. Standards Missing

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What is my conclusion:

Do not look for patterns !

How ever, there are three main clusters and the conclusion or consequences out of that:

It’s all about the START
Good stuff, as you cant change that Once your are in the project

It’s all about the PEOPLE
Good stuff, so lets focus on them and our self

It’s all about the COMPLEXITY
Good stuff, lets reduce it and learn how to manage crisis along the way

Bottom Line: Projects will fail and will go through crisis. The challenge is, how to manage the crisis and be able to turn the situation around.


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