10 Failed Projects: Examples and How You Can Avoid Making the Same Mistakes
Looking at these famous failed projects examples through the lens of a project manager , we can learn how to spot issues before they have a chance to derail our plans — and avoid our own project failures in the future.
From Betamax to Crystal Pepsi, here are some high-profile projects that didn’t turn out as planned.
In this failed projects guide you will discover:
- Ten famous projects that failed
- Five ways to spot project failures before they happen
- Frequently asked questions
10. Sony Betamax
Sony launched its cassette recording device known as Betamax in the mid-1970s. It lost the battle for market share to JVC’s VHS technology, but Sony didn’t stop making Betamax tapes until 2016. In the age of online streaming, very few us realized it was still in production.
The story of Betamax has become nearly synonymous with failed marketing because while it was innovative and hit the market before its competition did, other products proved to be cheaper and better.
The lesson learned here is that project management doesn’t end when a project is launched, or a campaign has run its course. To stop your idea from hitting the ashpile of failed projects, remember to keep analyzing, and evaluating your products. That way, they can maintain their velocity and continue to benefit your bottom line.
9. New Coke
After testing a new recipe on 200,000 subjects and finding that people preferred it over the traditional version, Coca-Cola unveiled New Coke in 1985. That sounds like a safe move, right? Wrong.
Product loyalty and old-fashioned habit got in the way and people didn’t buy New Coke as expected, costing the company $4 million in development and a loss of $30 million in back stocked product it couldn’t sell and becoming one of the most famous failed project case studies in history.
While Coca-Cola certainly did market research, they missed the mark when it comes to assessing customer motivations. Customer input is imperative in development and for your project to be successful, you need to ensure you have a way to gather comprehensive customer insight that gives accurate and realistic information.
8. Polaroid Instant Home Movies
With the Polavision you could record video, develop it in a matter of minutes, and then watch it immediately! It was groundbreaking at the time, but the two-and-a-half-minute time limit, lack of sound, and the fact that you couldn’t watch the videos on your regular TV meant this project lasted just two years .
The Polavision was revolutionary, but Polaroid dropped the ball when they failed to stay abreast of developing marketing needs. When you keep your finger on the pulse of your market, you’re ready to innovate to meet its needs and avoid project failure.
7. Crystal Pepsi
Crystal Pepsi was a hit at first, and people were excited about the new version of an old favorite. But people soon lost interest and the novelty wore off, making it impossible for Crystal Pepsi to gain a strong market share.
David Novak was the COO of PepsiCo during the project and didn’t listen when bottlers told him the Crystal Pepsi flavor wasn’t quite right. “I learned there that you have to recognize that when people are bringing up issues, they might be right,” he later said .
6. McDonald's Arch Deluxe Burger
In 1996, McDonald’s put more than $150 million into advertising — more than it had ever spent on an ad campaign — for its new Arch Deluxe Burger, only to find out its customers weren’t interested in the more grown-up, sophisticated menu option.
This is another case that highlights the importance of letting customer data drive product strategy. If McDonald’s had a more accurate picture of what its customers wanted, it could have saved millions in advertising and resources.
A great way to stay on top of data is to choose a handful of key metrics to track , make sure your tools can accurately track them in as close to real-time as possible, and then always strategize based on the numbers.
5. Apple Lisa
Lisa, the first desktop with a mouse, cost $10,000 (almost $24,000 today) and had just 1 MB of RAM. Consumers weren’t as interested as Apple anticipated, and it was a case of overpromising and under-delivering , as the 1983 ads — featuring Kevin Costner — depicted the Lisa as much more than it really was.
Transparency matters. It may feel like a buzzword you hear all the time, but there’s no better way to describe the lesson learned here other than to say that Apple was not transparent enough about the Lisa.
We no longer live in an age where you can falsify the capabilities of a product because social media makes it easier for the truth to come out and word of mouth will eventually catch up to — and destroy — projects that lack transparency
4. Levi Type 1 Jeans
While we don’t know what Levi’s project management processes are like, one way to avoid confusion is to improve internal communications so the final product has a clear message and is easily understood by end-users.
To stop your project becoming a failure case study, avoid email and spreadsheets and instead, try an operational system of record to communicate, get status updates, and track document versions.
3. IBM PCjr
IBM released its PCjr in 1983 in an attempt to attract home computer users, but the PCjr offered fewer features than its competitors and was twice as expensive as an Atari or Commodore. After customers complained about the low-quality keyboard, IBM offered an alternative, which had its own issues, and couldn’t revive interest in the PCjr
IBM had the right approach when it listened to users and provided what they were asking for: a new keyboard. Unfortunately, its response wasn’t quite enough because the product was low quality and didn’t help improve users’ experience with the PCjr.
When you listen to your market, especially in times of crisis, it’s imperative that you hit it out of the park with your response in a way that not only saves your project but inspires even more brand loyalty with extremely satisfied customers.
2. The DeLorean DMC-12
Even the futuristic shape, gull-wing doors, and gold-plated models weren’t enough to save the DeLorean DMC-12, which experienced problems throughout production, giving it a rough start.
Then, John DeLorean, the company’s founder, was arrested in 1982 on drug trafficking charges he incurred while trying to raise money to save the business. Even though he was found not guilty, it was too late for the Marty McFly-famous car.
This one is still playing out but is a great example of leveraging nostalgia and coming back bigger and better. Or in this case, faster and more powerful.
In 2016, a new DeLorean was announced and then delayed due to some legal issues. However, things are back on track for an early 2019 release with an updated interior, more powerful engine, and faster speeds. In some cases, a do-over can tap into a niche market and bring a project back from the brink of failure for a successful refresh.
1. The Ford Edsel
The Ford Edsel is the perfect example of the importance of speed to market and how even a major brand and product can fail if a project loses velocity. Things like poor communication, inaccurate deadlines, and out-of-touch project managers can majorly slow a project down, to the point that it’s no longer relevant or valuable.
Robert Kelly , services solution executive, global accounts at Lenovo and project management expert explained the importance of maintaining an accurate project schedule: “Even with the best planning and collaboration, things happen. Make sure your project schedule reflects the actual and current reality of the project.”
Five ways to spot project failures before they happen.
When you read about project management failure case studies like these, it’s hard to see how the creatives and strategists who hatched the plans dropped the ball.
While the market is unpredictable and hindsight is always 20/20, there are a few common factors in failed projects that we can all learn from.
1. Low interest
People stop showing up for meetings. Stakeholders stop participating or giving timely feedback. Tasks stop getting completed on time. All of these are signs that interest in a project is flagging.
How to stop it: Keep communications as up to date as possible. Track all assignments. Hold all assignees accountable . If stakeholders stop caring about a project, hold a sit-down to determine the current perceived value of your project to the organization.
2. Poor communication
The team doesn't know when things are getting done, what's not getting done, or why it's not getting done. The project lead isn't communicating changes to the rest of the team. When communications do go out, they are either late or inaccurate.
How to stop it: While email and spreadsheets are okay for getting basic information out, they tend to be slower and more cumbersome than the typical fast-moving team needs. Consider purchasing tools like Adobe Workfront that automate communications as much as possible.
3. Lack of velocity
Assignments are long past due, stalled on the approval of an elusive stakeholder. Maybe team members are spending more and more time on other projects. At any rate, contrary to your best projected completion dates, your project has come to a full stop.
How to stop it: See the solution to lack of interest. Accountability is especially key here. Ensure that everyone is aware of their assignments and their due dates and then press them to meet them. If stakeholders are holding a project up, call them, if possible, to find out if there are any issues.
4. A “no bad news” environment
Individual reports in meetings are especially rosy and don't match the chaos that seems to be engulfing a project. Staff members avoid questions asking for progress updates and project leaders seem to be in the dark about why tasks are being done late, or not at all.
How to stop it: Let numbers rule. Your team should be guided by a handful of key metrics that you can track, such as on-time delivery rate. And then make sure your tools can accurately track those metrics in as close to real time as possible.
5. Scope creep
The project starts to barely resemble the requirements as they were given at its outset. Timelines have stretched beyond the original projections. The phrase, "You know what would be really cool would be if we added ________," is uttered during the review and approval phase. This is scope creep — and you need to avoid it.
How to stop it: Use an airtight requirements gathering process before the project starts. In fact, don't even allow the project to start until you, your team, your stakeholders, and your requestor are all on the same page. And then treat that requirements doc like a binding contract.
In the end, the best way to avoid project failure (and embarrassing flops) is to stay one step ahead of your project and keep safeguards like these in place, so you can quickly pivot, producing a successful outcome regardless of what obstacles may arise.
Frequently asked questions about project failures.
What is a failed project?
A project can be seen as a failure when it doesn’t achieve its objectives. This doesn’t just mean overall goals – a failed project could be something that went overbudget, over deadline or lost the support of its staff and stakeholders. By thoroughly planning your project and monitoring from start to finish, you can help ensure your project is a success.
What can we learn from a failed project?
Plenty! The main thing to take away is that these projects fell mainly because of poor communication along the way. Setting up your projects to automate as much of your communication as possible is key, and having everyone aware of certain key metrics will ensure positivity and morale is always high.
How do I recover from a failed project?
Having one failed project does not mean your company or idea is a failure. Learn from the mistakes made in the project that failed and start from the beginning, making those all-important changes along the way.
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5 Notorious Failed Projects & What We Can Learn from Them
Failure is an unavoidable part of any project process: it’s the degree of failure that makes the difference. If a task fails, there are ways to reallocate resources and get back on track. But a systemic collapse will derail the whole project.
What good can come from failure? A lot, actually. Sometimes a project reaches too far beyond its means and fails, which is unfortunate, but can also serve as a teaching moment. If project managers don’t learn from their mistakes, then they’re not growing professionally and will revisit the same problem in future projects.
Project managers can learn as much, if not more, from failed projects as they can from successful ones. A post mortem should be part of any project plan, and especially so when a project crashes and burns. There are valuable lessons in those ashes.
Let’s look at five notorious failed projects, not to gloat, but to see what they can tell us about project management.
The word Betamax has become almost synonymous with failure. But when it was first released, Betamax was supposed to become the leader in the cassette recording industry. Developed by Sony, Betamax was introduced in the mid-1970s but was unable to get traction in the market, where JVC’s VHS technology was king.
Surprisingly, Sony continued to produce Betamax all the way into 2016. Long before it discontinued the technology, Betamax was already irrelevant.
Betamax was an innovative product, and it even got to market before VHS. But soon the market had options that were cheaper and better than Betamax, making it a failed project. Sony’s mistake was thinking that the project was complete once the product went to market. Project managers need to always follow up on their work, analyze the data and make an evaluation about what needs to be done to keep the project relevant.
Coca-Cola is one of the most iconic brands in the world. It would take a lot to tarnish that reputation. But that’s just what happened when New Coke was introduced in 1985. People didn’t know why the Coke they loved and drank regularly was being replaced.
The company knew why. They were looking to improve quality and make a splash in the marketplace. The fact is, New Coke sunk like a stone. It wasn’t like New Coke was just released on an unknowing public, though it might seem that way. In fact, the new recipe was tested on 200,000 people, who preferred it to the older version.
But after spending $4 million in development and losing another $30 million in backstocked product, the taste for New Coke evaporated. Consumers can be very loyal to a product, and once they get into a habit, it can be very difficult to break them of it in favor of something different.
It’s not that Coca-Cola neglected market research to see if there was a need for developing a new product, but they were blind to their own customers’ motivations. New Coke was a failed project because the researchers needed to do more than a mere taste test. They needed to understand how people would react when the familiar Coke they loved would be discontinued and replaced by a shiny new upstart. Market research must be handled like a science and an art—and worked into the project plan accordingly.
The Stretch project was initiated in 1956 by a group of computer scientists at IBM who wanted to build the world’s fastest supercomputer. The result of this five-year project was the IBM 7030, also known as Stretch. It was the company’s first transistorized supercomputer.
Though Stretch could handle a half-million instructions per second and was the fastest computer in the world up to 1964, the project was deemed a failure. Why? The project’s goal was to create a computer 100 times faster than what it was built to replace. Stretch was only about 30-40 times faster.
The planned cost was $13.5 million, but the price dropped to $7.8 million; so the computer was at least completed below cost. Only nine supercomputers were built.
While the project was a failure in that it never achieved the goal it set, there was much IBM could salvage from the project. Stretch introduced pipelining, memory protection, memory interleaving and other technologies that helped with the development of future computers.
Creative work is rooted in failure specifically because of the serendipitous discovery that occurs. This was a creative project, which might not have met its paper objective, but created a slew of useful technologies. So, aim for your goal, and who knows what good things you’ll discover along the way.
Challenger Space Shuttle
The worst failure is one that results in the loss of life. When you’re dealing with highly complex and dangerous projects like NASA, there’s always tremendous risk that needs to be tracked . On January 28, 1986, that risk became a horrible reality as space shuttle Challenger exploded 73 seconds after launch.
The cause was a leak in one of the two solid rocket boosters that set off the main liquid fuel tank. The NASA investigation that followed said the failure was due to a faulty designed O-ring seal and the cold weather at launch, which allowed for the leak.
But it was not only a technical error that NASA discovered, but human error. NASA officials went ahead with the launch even though engineers were concerned about the safety of the project. The engineers noted the risk of the O-ring, but their communications never traveled up to managers who could have delayed the launch to ensure the safety of the mission and its astronauts.
Managers are only as well-informed as their team. If they’re not opening lines of communication to access the data on the frontlines of a project, mistakes will be made, and in this case, fatal ones.
Okay, no one loves the DMV. If they were a brand, their reputation would be more than tarnished, it would be buried. But everyone who drives a vehicle is going to have some interaction with this government agency. Unfortunately, they didn’t help their case in the 1990s when the states of California and Washington attempted to computerize their Departments of Motor Vehicles.
In California, the project began in 1987 as a five-year, $27 million plan to track its 31 million drivers’ licenses and 38 million vehicle registrations. Problems started at the beginning when the state solicited only one bid for the contract, Tandem Computers, locking the state into buying their hardware.
Then, to make things worse, tests showed that the new computers were even slower than the ones they were to replace. But the state moved forward with the project until 1994, when it had to admit failure and end the project. The San Francisco Chronicle reported that the project cost the state $49 million, and a state audit found that the DMV violated contracting laws and regulations.
The problem here is a project that isn’t following regulations. All projects must go through a process of due diligence, and legal and regulatory constraints must be part of that process. If the state had done that and the contract bidding process invited more than one firm to the table, then a costly mess could have been avoided, and our wait at the DMV might actually have become shorter.
How ProjectManager Prevents Failed Projects
ProjectManager.com keeps your projects from failing with a suite of project management tools that shepherd your project from initiation to a successful close. Plan, schedule and track work, while managing teams, with our online software.
Plan Every Last Detail
Successful projects begin with a strong plan. But it can be hard to keep all those tasks and due dates working together on a realistic schedule. What if some tasks are dependent? It gets complicated. But ProjectManager has an online Gantt chart that plots your tasks across a project timeline, linking dependencies and breaking projects into digestible milestones.
Track Progress as it Happens
ProjectManager keeps you on track with high-level monitoring via its real-time dashboard and more detailed data with one-click reporting . Now when projects start to veer off-track, you can get them back on course quickly.
While we didn’t have an example, there are many projects that fail because they’re not equipped with the right tools for the job. ProjectManager is a cloud-based project management software that gives project managers and their teams everything they need to plan, monitor and report on their project. Don’t let your next project fail; try ProjectManager with this free 30-day trial .
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The 25 Worst Business Failures in History
It is said that up to 50% of businesses fail within five years of inception. Most of these business start and end in obscurity. A few of them, however, start up with the verve of a cannonball, only to crash with equal fanfare. Some of the companies listed below, like Enron and DeLorean, exemplify this cataclysmic appeal. Others, like Pan Am and Woolworth’s, just tug at our heartstrings.
Check out the 25 worst business failures in history below:
25. Fashion Café Want some Newports with that iceberg lettuce?
A restaurant that serves gargantuan burgers and fried appetizers founded by a bunch of supermodels and fey fashionistas didn’t work ? Hmm, I wonder why. “The $20 Salad Extraordinaire,” created exclusively for Naomi Campbell, reportedly consisted of a glass of champagne, a pack of Newports and two slices of tomato accompanied by an iceberg leaf. Famed restaurateur Tommaso Buti was the “brains” behind the operation. He over-franchised the cafes, was accused of mismanagement, then followed Christy Turlington in selling his stake in the company. Buti, already accused of defrauding investors, was arrested in 2000 and charged with wire fraud, conspiracy, money laundering, and transportation of stolen property.
A legend turns into a men’s store
In 2006, after 33 years of offering up legends like the Talking Heads, Blondie, Misfits and the stalwart Ramones, CBGB, the most famous underground alt-rock/punk club in the world, closed its doors. It was shuttered to make way for a high-end men’s fashion store. Patti Smith gave the historic club an emotional, if punk, goodbye by tearing the stage and room apart. Ironically, the very same shrine that so many skinny-jean hipsters and adrenaline-fueled punks would come to mourn was originally started by Hilly Kristal as a venue for his favorite music: “Country, Blue Grass and Blues.”
23. The Edsel Ford’s biggest flop
In 1958, Ford’s newest vehicle, launched on “E-Day,” flailed, flopped, and imploded. Ford kept the Edsel under wraps as a new kind of futuristic, experimental car. One fateful day in 1958, the Edsel was revealed…and immediately faceplanted. This car of the future was blah by anyone’s standards. By November 1959, when Ford finally mercy-killed the Edsel, it had lost an estimated $250 million–nearly $2 billion in today’s dollars. Edsel is now synonymous with a marketing business failure.
The name says it all
Flooz.com blew through up to $50 million dollars trying to convince new Internet users that money online would work like frequent flier miles or gift cards. Part of that money went to a notoriously bad ad campaign featuring Whoopi Goldberg (before she was cool again). And the name? Flooz is derived from the Arabic word for money. In August, 2001 the company folded their chairs and went home. Apparently, people could just use their credit cards. Whoops!
21. The Hit Factory
A New York classic goes condo
Deep in New York, in the heart of Hell’s Kitchen, The Hit Factory was one the world’s most recognized recording Studios. Started by Edward Germano in 1975, it saw everyone from Tony Bennett to U2 record amazing tracks. After Germano’s death in 2003, his wife Janice took over operations. Citing the “digital age,” she closed the doors and sold the building, moving the operations to an existing Hit Factory in Miami. Troy Germano, Edward’s son, later acknowledged publicly that his mother simply closed it out of greed. She wanted to move to Miami and thought she could make good money on the building’s sale. It is now a luxury condominium complex, with prices starting at $1 million.
20. Betamax BetaWrong
I could give you facts, figures, and dates to support why Betamax failed so miserably, but that would be a blog post unto itself. Suffice it to say: Betamax was bulky, complicated, ugly, expensive, publicly ridiculed, horribly marketed, disdained by the media, and only capable of limited recording and playback. The capper? Most Hollywood movies that people rented were just a little bit over one hour. Too bad…and good riddance.
The “Flying Bank” ends up buried
The former national airline of Switzerland, Swissair, used to be so financially stable that it was known as the “Flying Bank.” Founded in 1931, Swissair epitomized international transportation until the late 1990s, when the airline’s board decided to follow an aggressive borrowing and acquisition policy called the Hunter strategy. Then, the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 put a void in the company’s plans Swissair found itself hamstrung with debt. Unlike some other airlines, however, Swissair couldn’t handle the financial hit. Mismanagement and bad ideas—trundling large sums of cash to purchase fuel at foreign airports, for example—left the airline gasping for oxygen. In 2002, Switzerland was embarrassed to lose its national icon for good.
18. Ponzi’s Security Exchange Company
Bernie Madoff’s famous forebear
It’s quite an achievement to have a breed of financial scam named after yourself . Charles Ponzi, an Italian immigrant, ran a staggering 6-month pyramid scheme in 1920 by gaining investments (over $15 million) from an ever-growing pool of more than 40,000 investors. Ponzi would use “profits” from new investors to pay “interest” to old ones. Using a trade system of international reply coupons for postage stamps and leveraging exchange rates, Ponzi made a lot of people money through the “Securities Exchange Company,” which claimed to leverage exchange rates through an international postage stamp reply coupon trading system (this mouthful of a phrase reminds me of how people described derivatives in 2008). But his scheme ruined lives–including Charles’ own. After jumping a few bails, he did prison time from 1926 through 1934. Years later, he died, penniless, in a Brazil charity hospital, half-blind and partially paralyzed.
17. Woolworth’s The bad economy bullies Woolies towards its own demise
Brits, who held “ Woolies ” close to their hearts, were were crushed when this comfort food and houseware retailer closed its last 807 stores after nearly 100 years of service on High Street and beyond. At one time, Woolworths was the leading music retailer in the entire U.K. During the 1950s and 60s, the store was instrumental to the Beatles’ sales success Indeed, Woolies also played a role in breaking Madonna to the rest of the world. Hey, she’s a Brit now. Maybe she’ll pony up the cash to save them? Not likely.
16. Premier Smokeless Cigarette Taste-wise, charcoal just doesn’t cut it
A smokeless cigarette has been the holy grail of tobacco ever since Reagan lit up a Chesterfield on broadcast TV. In an effort to reduce the harmful effects of inhaling cigarette smoke, RJ Reynolds launched the Premier cigarette, a “smokeless nicotine delivery mechanism that looks and feels like a premium cigarette,” in 1988. The product ended up a miserable flop. Not only did this expensive cig taste like charcoal, it ended up being employed by drug users as a handy “delivery mechanism” for substances other than tobacco. The cost of the project? A cool $1 billion.
15. Bre-X Minerals
Fool’s gold strikes again
If someone tells you they’ve struck gold on the isle of Borneo, grab your money and run the other way. In 1995, Bre-X Minerals was a tiny mining company based in Calgary with stock worth under $1 when they announced they had found extensive deposits of Gold in Busang, Indonesia. As a result, their stock shot to almost $300 CAD a share. A series of strange events, including a man fallen from a helicopter and eaten by tigers, roused enough suspicion to unravel the fraud. By 199, an outside analysis of the sites samples revealed that Bre-X had faked their findings by “salting” samples with gold dust. Within weeks, the NASDAQ and TSX delisted the company, which at one point held a market cap of $4.4 billion. Investors slapped their foreheads, and Bre-X Minerals slunk into history as a major business failure.
14. IndyMac IndySplat
On July 11, 2008 the FDIC seized the assets of the largest Savings and Loan in Los Angeles and the 7th largest loan originator in the country. The seizure sparked rumors of bank runs. It also gave the public the first real, Main Street glimpse of the Financial Crisis of 2008. IndyMac was founded in 1995 as Countrywide Mortgage Investment. Its purpose was to provide a means of collateralizing loans too high in value for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to service. At the time of its seizure, IndyMac held nearly $30 billion in assets, making it the fourth largest bank failure in history.
13. Edison Records First isn’t always best
It’s always difficult being first. Thomas Edison founded the first record company and invented the phonograph, the first device made for recording and playback of sound, in 1877. This achievement led to all of the music industry as we now know it. Surprisingly, it was also the first dictaphone in history used by businesses. World War I shortened the supply of materials Edison could use for his highly secret wax recipe, used in manufacturing. The company’s market share fell. As other companies seized the opportunity the make “needle-cut” records (an Edison Labs invention) Edison Records lost customers and credibility. It closed its doors in 1929.
12. Tucker Automobiles There’s a reason only four of them ever died
The ambitious car company that Preston Tucker started was only in business one year (‘47-‘48). It produced a mere of 51 cars, but its story remains enshrined in museums, car clubs, film and even a video game where everyone drives a Tucker. The fatal flaw? Offering customers the option to buy their accessories before their car was built. This program started a witch-hunt by the SEC. Amid accusations of fraud and the “Big Three’s” influence over government, Tucker Automobiles went belly-up. I will spare you the argument of whether it was the best car ever made, but out of that original 51, 47 Tuckers still exist today. Let that be your clue.
11. Sharper Image
Buy, but do not inhale
Started in 1977 as a catalog selling jogging watches, the Sharper Image eventually grew into a high-end customer electronics store. As iPods and other branded, high-tech items took over the store’s traditional market share, it launched into the infomercial business with the Oreck vacuum and Ionic Breeze. Unfortunately, the Ionic Breeze did not purify the air as it said it did. After losing a lawsuit against Consumer Reports for a negative review, the testing company released findings that the Ionic breeze actually produced trace levels of ozone. In 2008, the store went bankrupt, forcing shoppers to buy their overpriced, Japanese made, brushed steel, throw-away executive gifts elsewhere.
10. Washington Mutual Bank
See bank run
WaMu was America’s largest Savings and Loan association, the sixth largest bank in the U.S., and (drumroll please…) the largest bank failure in history. Let that sink in for a minute. After a 10-day run on the bank in late September 2008, with total withdrawals in excess of $16 billion USD–almost 10% of the deposits–the FDIC seized WaMu’s assets. JPMorgan Chase bought WaMu subsidiaries the next day for what many suspect at pennies on the dollar. The holding company is currently in Chapter 11.
9. Enron They made the E crooked for a reason
Enron was an energy sector leader that started to dabble in e-commerce and exotic investment areas, such as weather futures. In 2001, Enron, once valued at $90 billion and the 7th largest company in the United States, went bankrupt. It took jobs, investor savings, retiree futures and even some lives with it. In following years, it emerged that they shredded documents, started partnerships with their own shell companies, and engaged in massive inside trading. Enron is now synonymous with the business outcomes of galloping greed.
Go digital or die
Shake it like a Polaroid picture! You know you’re good when your name is the product . (Hello, Kleenex). But while you and I were buying our first digital camera, printing pictures and later taking photos with our phones and PDA’s, the execs at Polaroid were snapping and shaking their pictures into oblivion. So loved was the brand that countless people took daily shots of and created art, diaries and literature using these magical snapshots taped to their walls or to the street. The leader of an amazing niche technology that so enriched anyone born before 1980, Polaroid went bankrupt in 2005. The name may emerge again, but the brand and the impact will always be retro.
7. Atkins Nutritionals
Fadkins takes a bad fall
Apparently, bread won. Remember when all of your friends ordered their lunch without the bun and no potatoes, but with lard-laden beef and cheese? Atkins engineered the “low-carb” craze, a fad diet claiming you could “lose fat by eating fat.” Dr. Robert Atkins released Dr. Atkins’ Diet Revolution in 1972. In 1992, revised version gained popularity; the fad really took off at the beginning of millennium. Questions arose from the medical community about the diet’s long-term effects. Countless others, from the FDA to top chefs, also lined up to take shots at it. In 2003, it was reported to a skeptical public that the good doctor slipped on an icy sidewalk and died. The company went bankrupt within two years amidst the suspicion that his diet killed him. Meanwhile, a fickle public ditched low-card for the next fad. A year later, a leaked medical examinations report revealed that Dr. Atkins, 72, had a history of heart attack and congestive heart failure. He weighed 258 pounds at death.
6. Bethlehem Steel When service kills steel
Everything you know about historic America has Bethlehem Steel in it. Founded when James Buchanan was our nation’s president, Bethlehem Steel was the backbone of the first blasting furnace, railroads, skyscrapers, coal, nuclear reactors, warships, cargo vessels, large construction projects like arenas, and other major infrastructural accomplishments. However, the company never adjusted to the new service-based economy that gained ground in the 1990s. Cheap imports worsened the situation. Bethlehem Steel, a piece of American history, disappeared forever when it filed for bankruptcy in 2001.
Big isn’t better
Pet’s can’t drive, and sock puppets make bad spokespeople, but Pets.com made the dot-com bubble their own in 2000. They overexpanded by opening a nationwide network of warehouses nationwide too quickly (taking a hint from Starbucks). Unfortunately, profits never caught up with media buys for commercials. In marketing, nothing is worse than having everyone know who you are and no one interested in what you sell. Widely recognized as the icon or poster child for dot-com failure, its stock went from over $11 in early 2000 to just $.19 on Election Day that same year, when the company closed its doors.
4. White Star Lines’ “Titanic”
A disaster of titanic proportions
White Star Lines , which built the Titanic, has oddly disappeared from the lore surrounding the fated giant. The fated vessel was conceived of in 1907, when executives Bruce Ismay and Lord Pirrie drastically changed and expanded their shipping transportation business to compete with Cunard’s new luxury oceanliners. The result was a line of gargantuan luxury liners that moved more passengers and freight than anyone else on the market. Three ships came out of the venture: The Olympic, the Titanic, and the Brittanic. You know the rest of the story. Cue the music!
3. Commodore Computers
You can’t kill the C64
Between 1983-1986, Apple, IBM, and Atari computer were quaking in their boots. The reason? The Commodore 64 was selling 2 million units a year and dominated nearly 50% of the total market. As the company tried to innovate by releasing the Commodore plus/4, a faster, smarter version with a color screen, they alienated their original customer base. The new model was incompatible with the cherished C64. Commodore tried to discontinue the old line in the US by 1990 and announced it would stop shipping them in 1995. The tactic didn’t work. Customers all over Europe continued to snap up the C64s until it became impossible for the company to manufacture them at a reasonable price without selling new, more expensive models. As they say, “you can’t kill the C64.” The company went bankrupt in the spring 1994.
2. DeLorean Motor Company
A man, his cocaine, and his car
As is often the case in the automobile industry, it’s hard to separate the man from the vehicle. John DeLorean was a hero amongst the very rich for creating the kind of car the future promised. With a stainless steel-skinned body, sleek lines and doors that opened vertically (gull wings), his DMC-12 hit the streets in 1980. Over the next three years, only 8,900 cars would be made. The car played a feature role in “Back to the Future” and become a potent status symbol. Then, in 1983, a sting revealed John on tape saying “this cocaine is as good as gold,” referring to a suitcase full of drugs valued at $24 million. Later acquitted on entrapment grounds and cleared of defrauding his partners, he would never gain the investor’s trust again.
The icon that didn’t pan out
It’s amazing how a country’s identity can be so closely tied to a business. Such was the case with PanAm . Founded in 1927, the airline was a part of American culture for the better part of the 20th century. It led the industry in international flights and luxury travel. It was also the first airline to make widespread use of jumbo jets, and the first to use an air staff of stewardesses as a PR focal point. Little girls grew up wanting to be PanAm stewardesses, and boys grew up wanting to pilot one of the fleet. Heck, the Beatles arrived on one. Unfortunately, as an American icon, PanAm was also a target for terrorism. A few horrific incidents, coupled with the increased global competition that came with deregulation, caused the airline—and its accompanying era—to collapse in 1991.
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Failed projects and the lessons learned – 2023
Not sure why project management is needed.
In this blog, we’ve uncovered some of the most famous failed projects throughout history and explore what we can learn from them today.
Training ByteSize are a world leading training provider; we continually provide students with the most successful and experienced trainers so you’re always in the best position to pass first. Our pass rates and customer reviews are exceptional, so you can be assured of our experience, professionalism and long-standing success when it comes to our expertise on sharing our view of failed projects.
Sometimes, the most effective way of understanding the need for project management and the reason why it’s so important is to look at previous failed projects. What is project failure? It can mean many things, from cost and time overruns to scope creep and a failure to deliver a return on investment. We’ve uncovered some of the biggest project failures in history where governance was lacking which resulted in the inability to meet objectives and deliver what was planned. Read on for our top 8 high-profile failed projects and discover the lessons that we can learn from each of them.
1. Airbus A380
In 2004, Airbus was all set to launch the biggest passenger plane in the skies. Parts were shipped from Toulouse to Hamburg for assemblage but it soon became apparent that none of the pieces actually fitted together. It was later learned that the designers were all using different CAD programs which resulted in different measurements.
Lesson Learned: This highlights the importance of project management to keep everyone on the same page. Even across different time zones and borders, always ensure that the team is using the same programs and systems to get the task done.
2. Challenger Space Shuttle
This project failure had tragic consequences. On January 28 1986, the Challenger Space Shuttle exploded just 76 seconds after it had launched due to a combination of a faulty seal on a rocket booster and cold weather. It was determined that human error was partly to blame.
Lesson Learned: Human error can be greatly minimised by effective project management. The role of a project manager is to put systems in place to reduce the risk of human error impacting on projects, big or small.
3. World Athletics Championships 2019
In 2019, the best world athletes made their way to Doha to compete in the World Athletics Championships. Unfortunately, the host nation was unable to sell the majority of tickets so athletes were forced to compete in nearly-empty stadiums.
Lesson Learned: It doesn’t matter how much money you put into an event. If you don’t have a strong homegrown fan base, it will be very difficult to fill seats and create a memorable experience.
4. McDonald’s Arch Deluxe Burger
When McDonald’s launched a new ‘grown-up’ version of their iconic hamburger, called the Arch Deluxe Burger in 1996, it was discovered that customers weren’t interested in changing the original formula. McDonald’s put more than $150 million dollars into their ad campaign but the burger failed to gain popularity and was soon dropped.
Lesson Learned: The biggest lesson learned here is to always let customer data drive product strategy. With the right project management, McDonald’s would have had a clearer idea of what its customers wanted. A great way to do this is to track selective key metrics and ensure your tools can accurately track the data in real time. Then, use the numbers to formulate your strategies.
5. Knight Capital
In 1985, Coca Cola launched a product called ‘New Coke’ which turned into a real fizzer with the public. Even though the new recipe went through a taste trial of 200,000 people, it turned out that fans of Coca Cola were too loyal to the original recipe to be enticed to drink a new one.
Lesson Learned: While Coca Cola did their market research and learned that customers were open to a new product, they failed to see their customer’s own motivations. More than a mere taste test was needed to understand how fans would feel when their beloved Coca Cola was suddenly replaced by a different product. It’s a reminder to treat project management as a science and an art that needs to be worked into the project accordingly.
6. Ford Edsel
The Ford Edsel was a result of extensive research into what Ford consumers wanted in a car. The problem was that by the time the model was released, the market had already moved on to more compact cars and the Ford Edsel was already outdated.
Lesson Learned: While project research is absolutely essential, it is only successful if used in a timely manner. This highlights the importance of being quick to market fresh ideas before the public moves on to the next trend.
7. The Garden Bridge
The Garden Bridge has been dubbed a failed vanity project, pushed by Boris Johnson when her was the Mayor of London. The project cost £53m in total, despite never actually being built . According to a report, the bridge was over-optimistic both in terms of the fundraising possible and the final cost. This led to a shortfall which could never be overcome, despite surveying work on the riverbed already getting underway.
Lesson learned: Ambition is a powerful thing, but it needs to be grounded in reality, particularly when relying on fundraising to get projects off the ground. In retrospect, it would have been wise to establish if the project was feasible before spending £161,000 for a website.
8. The NHS’ Civilian IT Project
The project that aimed to revolutionise the NHS IT systems was a failure that cost the taxpayer somewhere in the region of £10bn. The politically-motivated and top-down nature of the project meant that scope creep and a complete underestimation of the requirements doomed this project from the start. The government was later criticised for its inability to handle large IT contracts.
Lesson learned: It’s important to consider the size and capabilities of your own organisation before taking on an ambitious project.
9. Sony Betamax
Lesson learned: While Sony Betamax may have been first to market, the project failed because it didn’t innovate. In the face of a cheaper product (VHS) with a better marketing model, Sony stuck to their guns and lost market share as a result.
The making of the movie Waterworld seemed doomed from the start. The director started shooting without finalising the script and multiple rewrites along the way resulted in production being extended from the scheduled 96 days into 150 days which pushed costs to $135 million dollars over budget.
Lesson Learned: Defining the scope of a project before it starts is crucial to preventing cost and time overruns. In the case of this movie, the script should have been signed off before production even began.
11. Pepsi Crystal
Pepsi’s COO at the time later admitted that he ignored reports from his team that Pepsi Crystal didn’t taste quite right, but he pushed ahead with production anyway.
Lesson learned: When you have a wealth of knowledge on your side, it makes sense to make the most of it. While taking every single piece of feedback on board might be impossible, there is a middle ground that stops you from missing important cues.
12. Denver International Airport
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At Training ByteSize, we aim to equip you with the skills you need to excel as a project manager and lead your team to success every time. We’re a world leading training provider with exceptional pass rates and the most experienced trainers to keep you a step ahead of the rest. Our popular PRINCE2 course teaches you how to pre-plan your project, structure each stage and close remaining tasks after completion. We also offer other in-demand courses for project management, including Agile PM, Agile BA, Change Management and APM. Take control today and give us a call to discuss your needs and discover the right training course to advance your skills and your career.
Avoid failed projects with project management training: APM Project Management Qualification
APM stands for the Association for Project Management . This term has become synonymous with professionalism and is well known throughout the UK and Europe. APM is an educational charity who is committed to developing and promoting the value of project management in order to deliver improved project outcomes for the benefit of society.
The Association for Project Management, Project Management Qualification (APM PMQ), is a project management qualification designed and developed to provide candidates with a conceptual understanding of project management.
The course is knowledge based and designed to enable candidates to feel comfortable involving themselves in projects of all sizes across a breadth of industries.
The APM PMQ is seen as an intermediate level project management qualification. It is recognised around the world for signifying a certain level of competence.
Our APM PMQ online learning package
We offer training for this internationally recognised life-long certification for just £599+vat, this includes 12 months access to our online learning platform, email support from our expert trainers and the accredited PMQ exam.
Our course has been expertly put together by our leading APM Trainer to ensure the most significant elements of the classroom course remain an important focus throughout the online learning.
At the end of each online session there is a thorough review within the workbook covering the main points as revision and added additional information which will also be of use to you.
As you work through the course there will be ‘Pauses for Thought’ allowing you to develop the ‘Thinking Process’ which is required for the PMQ examination.
You will be asked to consider topics, their importance and relationships with other elements of project management. We will encourage you to share and compare your thoughts with ours to sense check you are on the right track.
The course is intensive and there is roughly 40 hours learning to work through. Ultimately our APM PMQ online course is the ideal way for busy professionals to gain this much sought-after qualification.
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We’re here for you at every stage of your project management career, so please take the opportunity to talk to us. You can use the chat function in the bottom right of your screen, email us at [email protected] , or call us on +44 (0)1270 626330.
Avoid failed projects with project management training: PRINCE2 Foundation
PRINCE2 is widely considered to be the world’s leading project management method. There are now people qualified in PRINCE2 in most countries around the world, with many companies and government organisations using the method to deliver change and develop new products and services.
PRINCE2 is a structured approach to project management. It provides a really clear framework for managing projects in a results-driven environment.
The purpose of PRINCE2 is to give you complete control over your project. The process will help you pre-plan how you want to implement your project, how to structure each stage of its execution and how to close off any remaining tasks once the project has finished.
PRINCE2 has been designed to be generic so that it can be applied to any project regardless of project scale, type, organisation, geography or culture. It provides a tried and tested method from which many organisations can benefit.
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Here at Training ByteSize, we boast an incredible 96% first-time pass rate for our PRINCE2 Foundation exam.
Our online learning packages offer you a convenience that no other training option does; you can login to your dedicated portal and learn at a pace and time that suits you.
All our courses are engaging and interactive, with mock exam simulators and full support packages
They are accessible, flexible and efficient, allowing you to move quickly through topics you feel comfortable with and spend more time focusing those that need more time.
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Now more than ever, it’s so important to invest in yourself and ensure you stand out in the market. We’re committed to supporting you and other learners through the challenging times we’re all facing, so our courses are on special offer and start from just £249+vat for an all-inclusive learning package.
PRINCE2® Foundation 6th Edition Course . For £249+vat our online learning package includes 3 months access to our exceptional online learning environment and the official accredited PRINCE2 Foundation exam.
PRINCE2® Practitioner 6th Edition Course . This Practitioner online learning package is priced at £399+vat and includes 3 months access to our excellent online learning environment, the handbook (worth £85) and official accredited exam.
PRINCE2® Foundation and Practitioner 6th Edition Course . For £599+vat you can access both learning packages, take both accredited PRINCE2 exams and we’ll send you the handbook.
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Discover the quality of our online learning with these free course demos of the PRINCE2 Foundation and PRINCE2 Practitioner .
PRINCE2 online courses are a great way to study and our e-learning system is interactive and engaging
Studying for your qualification online is a viable option for so many project managers:
- Learning is completely flexible to suit your busy schedule
- The interactive online course consists of voice-over and animation to keep you engaged throughout the learning
- You can access it anywhere in the world and take your exam online at a time that suits you best
- The e-learning will take around 10 hours to complete (depending on what you are studying) and includes a mock exam simulator with lots of past questions so you can really test yourself before going for the real exam
- Our pass rates are well in excess of the national average (nearly 100%!), there is really no reason you should fail!
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3 Projects that Failed Miserably
By: Ruairi O'Donnellan | Published on: Mar 15, 2016 | Categories: Collaboration , PM Best Practices | 0 comments
Believe it or not, projects fail…all the time. And not just small projects from small organizations, but large ones of huge significance. Some of the most powerful companies in the world have experienced project failure and lost billions of dollars as a result. Yes, BILLIONS! Imagine being that project manager?!
Avoid project failure with your free SharePoint Project Management Template!
Hopefully, you’ll never experience a career setback such as a multi-billion dollar failed project, but it is likely that you’ll incur one or two hiccups at some point along the way. To make you feel a little bit better about these bumps in the road, here are some of the biggest fails in project management history.
1. Target’s entry into Canada
Target Corporation, the second-largest discount retailer in the United States, behind Walmart. A company that is worth roughly 72.62 billion US dollars [March 2016].
What did they attempt to do?
They attempted to enter the Canadian market. It made perfect sense at the time as many Canadians would cross the border and come down south to their United States neighbors to do their shopping. Coupled with the fact that the company was reaching maturity in the USA, Target felt it time to expand their operations.
In order to facilitate this market penetration, Target purchased 189 leases from Canadian retailer Zellers (a similar company to Target). Not only did this allow them to set up 189 new shops across Canada, but it cleared out one of their competitors in the process.
I know what you’re thinking: ‘two birds, one stone’. But what if one of those birds doesn’t fly quite as expected?
Why did they fail?
The Canadian market was waiting with bated breath for the introduction of Target to the Great White North. Excited for the far lower prices they were surely going to experience, and heavier pockets, there was quite a bit of hype around this market entry. But all was not as they thought.
Two issues severely hindered this project.
- Firstly, Target prices weren’t that much lower than other similar competitors throughout Canada. The Canadian public was not particularly drawn to the Target brand and as a result, continued their shopping in other supermarkets that were more familiar to them.
- Secondly, Target suffered supply-chain difficulties leaving them with empty shelves and frustrated customers.
The media hopped on board the already sinking Target ship and cut some extra holes to speed up the process. Scathing reviews that reflected the disappointment of the Canadian shoppers damaged the Target name even further.
Ultimately, a failure to live up to customer expectations, a lack of situational awareness and analysis, quality issues in relation to the supply chain and a lack of risk management caused this US megastore to completely miss the target on this project, losing 7 billion US dollars in the process.
2. NHS’ civilian IT project
The National Health Service is the publicly funded healthcare system for England. It is the largest and oldest single-payer healthcare system in the world.
The NHS had great plans to create a unified electronic health records system for all British citizens. With an intention to serve 40,000 GPs and over 300 British hospitals, this project was going to be one of the world’s largest IT projects ever attempted.
If you’re familiar with the IT industry, you’ll be aware of the high failure rate of many of its projects. This project was the largest ever attempted so was bound to be risky and cause a number of issues.
It’s also worth noting that the NHS is a taxpayer-funded organization, making this project failure even more high-profile than Target’s market entry mishap.
The NHS bit off more than they could chew and started too big, too quick. This project was astronomical in size and was always going to be difficult to finish out successfully.
Brian Randell, a member of the group of academics who became concerned about the project and co-authored a dossier outlining his and others concerns, said the following about the project:
The NHS’s huge NPFIT project, intended to serve 40,000 GPs and 300 plus hospitals, was claimed to be the world’s largest civil IT project. In fact, its ill-fated intended central core, a nation-wide Electronic Health Record (EHR) facility, dramatically illustrates one of the most serious causes of large IT Project failures. The system of systems that was to provide EHRs was initially designed by a large central team and intended as a complete “big-bang” replacement for the many and varied existing EHR systems. It would have been far better to employ evolutionary acquisition, i.e. to specify, implement, deploy and evaluate a sequence of ever more complete IT systems, in a process that was controlled by the stakeholders who were most directly involved, rather than by some distant central bureaucracy. Authority, as well as responsibility, should have been left from the outset with hospital and general practitioner trusts to acquire IT systems that suited their environments and priorities – subject to adherence to minimal interoperability constraints – and to use centralized services (e.g., for system support and back-up) as if and when they chose.
3. The Death Star
The Death Star was the Empire’s (an army of sorts) ultimate weapon: a moon-sized space station with the ability to destroy an entire planet. It is, of course, a fictional weapon from the popular movie franchise, Star Wars. It was destroyed in the Battle of Yavin.
Star Wars is an American epic space opera franchise, centered on a film series created by George Lucas. It depicts the adventures of various characters “a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away”.
Even in fictional environments, projects can still fail!
The Death Star was going to be the ultimate weapon. Capable of wiping out whole planets with a single blast of its super laser, it was the deadly destroyer that the Empire was going to use to control the galaxy.
Basically, this mother-ship was going to give the Empire control of anything and anyone they wished. By holding such a powerful weapon, they would have complete control and strike fear into their enemies.
This particular project failed for a number of reasons . The over-arching issue was the inability to plan for attacks on the ship. The project team was so focused on creating a weapon capable of destroying anything in its path, appropriate defensive measures were not put in place. Essentially, the Death Star had no risk management strategy put in place to mitigate against risks such as flying spaceships captained by Chewbacca and friends.
The cost of this failed project? Well, the White House (yes, the actual White House) estimated that the ship would cost 850,000,000,000,000,000 US dollars to build in today’s economy.
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4 Famous Project Management Failures and What to Learn from Them
October 8, 2018 | by greg bailey.
Every project begins with a single idea or goal, and the best of intentions. But as they progress, mistakes are made, communications break down, and deadlines and budgets change. It’s these problems that mean, even when projects are started for the right reasons, 55% of businesses experience failed projects. In fact, 17% of large-scale IT projects go so badly that they threaten the very existence of the company.
Why do projects fail? And what leads to a failed project? This post will look at some project failure examples, including the worst-case scenarios, to identify the root cause of the problem, in the hope that we can ensure project managers don’t make the same fatal mistakes.
1. Ford Edsel
Ford Edsel is one of the most spectacular project failure examples in automotive history. Ford ’s team did extensive market research before it released the Edsel , even doing studies to make sure the car had the right ‘personality’ to attract the ideal customer . They spent 10 years and $250 million on research and planning—but by the time all this was completed, and the car was unveiled in 1957, Ford had missed its chance. The market had already moved on to buying compact cars, which didn’t include the Edsel.
Lessons learned: The Ford Edsel is the perfect fail project example that emphasizes the importance of speed to market and how even a major brand and product can fail if a project loses velocity. Poor communication and inaccurate deadlines can slow a project down to the point where it’s no longer relevant or valuable, let alone successful.
Paying ultimate attention to areas like resource availability and utilization—ensuring project workers are working to capacity and to the best of their ability—creates more accurate project timeline estimations and stops projects from dragging.
2. NHS Civilian IT
Back in 2007, the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) looked to revolutionize the way technology is used in the health sector, through the introduction of electronic health records, digital scanning, and integrated IT systems across hospitals and community care. They called it the ‘Civilian Computer System. ’ It would have been the largest of its kind in the world. But it failed because of contractual changes—including changing specifications, supplier disputes, and technical problems. Estimates of the cost of the now-abandoned project hover around the £11.4 billion mark.
Lessons learned: Change is almost inevitable during the course of a project, especially with large and complex ones like the NHS undertook. This is one of the most talked-about project failure examples that shows the importance of flexibility for achieving great results. You need to be able to react to changes as they occur, but also preemptively identify potential problems in order to stop them before they wreak havoc.
Project and resource modeling allows project managers to create a model where they can test, in real-time, the effects of changing or modifying their projects to keep ahead of schedule. So even in the event of unexpected changes, you’re prepared for what’s next.
3. Airbus A380
Building the Airbus A380—the world’s largest commercial aircraft at the time—required production facilities from across the globe to build individual parts of the airplane. Unfortunately, these teams used different computer-aided design (CAD) programs. During installation, they discovered the parts designed by different teams didn’t fit together. This cost the company $6 billion to put right and set the project back two years.
Lessons learned: The Airbus A380 is one of those failed projects examples that teach you the importance of proper workforce coordination. Unexpected problems will always be a challenge, but there are added challenges when your workforce is based remotely or in silos. For instance, it can take longer to report problems and coordinate the right response. If Airbus’s dispersed project teams had better-prioritized communication, the problem could have been solved before the installation phase, before it was too late.
When teams work across geographies, it’s important to set goals and metrics to ensure everyone understands their tasks, like what they’re expected to achieve and when. Resource management allows you to manipulate resource data in real time, so, if something goes wrong, the problem can be resolved as soon as possible. Using remote workers makes it difficult to gather everyone in a room, explain the problem, and find the solution. Resource management tools provide real-time reporting for full visibility over your resources, so you can instantly enact change.
4. Knight Capital
In 2012, when Knight Capital was brought on to work on new code for a new SEC program, an over-optimistic deadline caused them to go to production with test code. After production, a glitch cost the company $440 million within the first 30 minutes of trading , and company stock fell 75% within just two days.
Lessons learned: You need a granular-level view of your projects to forecast how long a project will feasibly take to complete and avoid setting unrealistic targets or deadlines. Resource management is crucial in analyzing and utilizing project resources, so projects can be completed as efficiently as possible without the need to rush work or take shortcuts.
Avoid famous project management failure with resource management
The project failure examples listed above were carried out on a monumental scale—involving a sea of moving parts and relied on a lot of people to complete. While no project can guarantee success, resource management can help measure and manage the moving parts of a project. The right resource management solution can help a project manager gain more control over their projects , providing insight into every step of the process .
Tempus Resource is a sophisticated resource management software that includes practical functionality like modeling, forecasting and ‘What-If?’ analysis. Tempus Resource can help organizations of any size and any level of project maturity reduce the risk of project failure.
To find out more on how resource management can reduce the risk of project failure, get in touch with ProSymmetry today .
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10 failed projects and the lessons learned
By ilx team | 19 august 2019.
Every project teaches lessons with its successes and failures. Best practice courses highlight the importance of developing a lessons learned mind-set from the outset of the project. Here are 10 major public project failures and the lessons learned from these mistakes.
In the early days of Apple, Lisa was the first GUI computer marketed at personal business users. It was supposed to be the first digital desktop computer that incorporated the now famous mouse, and a 5 MHz, 1MB RAM processor – the fastest of its kind back in 1983.
However, the project was a big failure. Only 10,000 computers were sold. It was such a failure that Steve Jobs was taken off that project and allocated to another project, the Macintosh. Apple Lisa overpromised and under-delivered, with a price-performance ratio that was significantly worse than had been expected.
Lesson Learned: the importance of stakeholder communication and transparency.
The early 1990s saw the trend for ‘light’ drinks emerge. In 1992, Pepsi launched Crystal Pepsi, a soft drink that tasted similar to regular Pepsi but it was clear-coloured. Initially sales were good, mainly due to the curiosity factor, but soon dropped away to the point where Crystal Pepsi was withdrawn from the market just 2 years later.
The mistake of David Novak, creator of Crystal Pepsi, and Pepsi itself, was making too many assumptions about the product and market demand. Novak was even told by the bottlers that the drink needed to taste more like Pepsi. Unfortunately, he didn’t listen.
Lesson Learned: never allow stakeholder communication to be one way and don’t make assumptions. Leverage everyone’s expertise and verify statements before considering them fact.
It’s not often that Ford gets it wrong but in the case of the Edsel, they failed on a big scale. Ford wanted to close the gap with General Motors and Chrysler. Having spent $250 million and 10 years developing the Edsel, by the time it came to the market the trend was for more compact cars.
Launched in 1957, the Edsel was considered overpriced, over-hyped, too big and unattractive. By 1959, production was ceased.
Lesson Learned: update a project’s business case and schedule during the lifetime of the project. The good news is that Ford did use their Edsel production facilities to manufacture compact cars.
In the 1990s, the DMV tried to computerise their department to track drivers’ licences and vehicle registrations.
But after 5 years and $27 million, as well as ‘putting all their eggs into one basket’ with Tandem Computers, they discovered their computers were actually slower than the ones they replaced. On top of that, a state audit found that the DMV was violating contracting laws and regulations.
Lesson Learned: processes should be followed and any legal or regulatory constraints must be included in the project plan.
J.C. Penny’s 2011 rebrand
To wean customers away from their reliance on coupons, J.C. Penny introduced simpler price points and colour-coded price tags, and ran a marketing campaign to promote this strategy.
Customers found the new pricing structure confusing, and that many items in reality never went on sale. Revenues dropped significantly and J.C. Penny had to admit failure.
Lesson Learned: the impact of a lack of stakeholder and market research and little risk management.
When the Airbus A380 was launched in 2007, much was expected of the airplane, but just 10 years later, they were being sold for no more than spare parts. The expected game-changer led to Airbus struggling to secure deals with airlines.
The A380 was expensive to produce and Airbus’s production teams didn’t communicate and used different CAD programs. That mistake alone cost $6 billion. Furthermore, the second-hand market was non-existent because the planes were simply too big for any airline to make back their invested money.
Lesson Learned: the impact of poor internal communication and a business case that was built on initial sales, taking the second-hand market for granted.
Montreal’s Highway 15 overpass
In 2016, Montreal city officials found that an overpass for Highway 15 didn’t align with the design for the new Champlain Bridge nearby, which was also undergoing redevelopment.
So just a year after being built, the overpass was torn down at a cost of $11 million to the taxpayer. While changing design criteria can have expensive knock-on effects, there was an apparent lack of communication between projects here.
Lesson Learned: a lack of programme management meant the bridge and the overpass for the same highway were being constructed without the other being considered. The long-term planning and internal communication suffered as a result.
This company’s stock market algorithm released in 2012 with code from an earlier build. It took just 30 minutes for a software glitch to see the company lose a massive $440 million and be forced into a merger a year later.
Although their CEO, Thomas Joyce, implied that the software bug could have happened to anyone, it is very likely that poor software development and inadequate testing models are more to blame for the defect in their trading algorithm.
Lesson Learned: project targets and deadlines must be realistic to be achievable. Rushing a product invites mistakes.
Target’s failed entry into Canada
When Target said they were expanding their retail outfit into Canada, 81% of Canadian shoppers expressed interest in visiting them. It should have been a resounding success, but it wasn’t. Less than 2 years later, Target’s Chairman and CEO announced they were pulling out of Canada, closing all 133 stores.
Target misjudged the Canadian customer. Their stores did not feature the same low prices as the US stores, there were serious supply and distribution problems, and they opened too many stores too quickly.
Lesson Learned: the need for better planning of resources and supply, along with poor management of stakeholder expectations.
Afghan forest camo pattern
Afghanistan’s landscape features around 2% woodland, yet this didn’t stop the US government from spending $28 million of taxpayers’ money on ‘forest’ pattern uniforms for the Afghan National Army. It was only chosen because the Afghan Defence Minister liked the design.
Ultimately, these uniforms were never used, so the money and uniforms were completely wasted. That particular forest pattern required a paid license, while many patterns already owned by the army were more suitable for Afghanistan’s landscape.
Lesson Learned: poor management led to a serious oversight. Stakeholder engagement and quality control would have prevented this.
Why projects fail: the common warning signs
Throughout the 10 failed projects we’ve highlighted above, there are a number of common themes. Identify these warning signs and you can avoid making the same mistakes.
- Lack of interest – warning signs include stakeholders not attending meetings or providing feedback, as well as allocated tasks not being completed on time. It’s the project manager’s role to track assignments and ensure a high level of communication at all times. If you believe stakeholders are losing interest, call a meeting to reiterate the value of the project.
- Poor communication – it’s easy for members of the project team to become ‘lost’ and out of the loop with project progress, decisions and reviews. Project managers should have a communication plan and automate as much as they can. This ensures everyone involved in the project is kept up-to-date constantly.
- Lack of transparency – the more you try to cover up a problem or issue, the less transparency you have and the greater the problem becomes. Be honest. Issues do arise and the best way forward is to identify them as early as possible, notify stakeholders, including sponsors and customers, and work closely with them to resolve the issue.
- Scope creep – don’t start the project until all the stakeholders are on the same page. Always ensure everyone has the scope statement to work from.
- Poor management oversight – ensure everyone’s roles and responsibilities are well-defined. The project manager is accountable to other stakeholders.
There will always be project failures. The key is to identify them as early as possible and work to resolve them before it is too late, minimising the damage. It is the project manager’s responsibility to lead by example, and learn from other people’s mistakes.
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10 Companies That Failed To Innovate, Resulting In Business Failure
It’s crazy to think that 88% of the Fortune 500 firms that existed in 1955 are gone. These companies have either gone bankrupt, merged, or still exist but have fallen from the top Fortune 500 companies. Most of the companies on the list in 1955 are unrecognizable, forgotten companies today. As the life expectancies of companies continue to shrink, organisations must be more vigilant than ever in remaining innovative and future-proofing their businesses.
Here are 10 famous companies that failed to innovate, resulting in business failure.
1. Blockbuster (1985 – 2010)
Home movie and video game rental services giant, Blockbuster Video, was founded in 1985 and arguably one of the most iconic brands in the video rental space. At its peak in 2004, Blockbuster employed 84,300 people worldwide and had 9,094 stores. Unable to transition towards a digital model, Blockbuster filed for bankruptcy in 2010.
In 2000, Netflix approached Blockbuster with an offer to sell their company to Blockbuster for US$50 million. The Blockbuster CEO, was not interested in the offer because he thought it was a "very small niche business" and it was losing money at the time. As of July 2017, Netflix had 103.95 million subscribers worldwide and a revenue of US$8.8bn.
2. Polaroid (1937 – 2001)
Founded in 1937, Polaroid is best known for its Polaroid instant film and cameras. Despite its early success in capturing a market that had few competitors, Polaroid was unable to anticipate the impact that digital cameras would have on its film business. Falling into the ‘success trap’ by exploiting only their (historically successful) business activities, Polaroid neglected the need to explore new territory and enhance their long-term viability.
The original Polaroid Corporation was declared bankrupt in 2001 and its brand and assets were sold off. In May 2017, the brand and intellectual property of the Polaroid corporation was acquired by the largest shareholder of the Impossible Project, which had originally started out in 2008 by producing new instant films for Polaroid cameras Impossible Project was renamed Polaroid Originals in September 2017.
3.Toys R Us (1948 – 2017)
Toys “R” Us is a more recent story about the financial struggle one of the world’s largest toy store chains. With the benefit of hindsight, Toys "R" Us may have led to its own undoing when it signed a 10-year contract to be the exclusive vendor of toys on Amazon in 2000. Amazon began to allow other toy vendors to sell on its site in spite of the deal, and Toys "R" Us sued Amazon to end the agreement in 2004. As a result, Toys "R" Us missed the opportunity to develop its own e-commerce presence early on. Far too late, Toys “R” Us announced in May 2017 its plan to revamp its website as part of a $100 million, three-year investment to jump-start its e-commerce business.
While filing for bankruptcy in September 2017 under pressure from its debt of US$1bn and fierce online retail competition, it has continued to keep its physical stores open.
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4. Pan Am (1927 – 1991)
Pan American World Airways (aka Pan Am), founded in 1927, was the largest international air carrier in the United States. The company was known as an industry innovator and was the first airline to offer computerised reservation systems and jumbo jets.
The downfall of Pan Am is attributed to was a combination of corporate mismanagement, government indifference to protecting its prime international carrier, and flawed regulatory policy. By over-investing in its existing business model and not investing in future, horizon 3, innovations, Pan Am filed for bankruptcy in 1991. Pan Am is survived only in pop culture through its iconic blue logo, which continues to be printed on purses and T-shirts and as the subject of a TV show on ABC starring Christina Ricci.
5. Borders (1971 – 2011)
Borders was an international book and music retailer, founded by two entrepreneurial brothers while at university. With locations all around the world but mounting debt, Border was unable to transition to the new business environment of digital and online books. Its missteps included holding too much debt, opening too many stores as well as jumping into the e-reader business to late.
Sadly, Borders closed all of its retail locations and sold off its customer loyalty list, comprising millions of names, to competitor Barnes & Noble for US$13.9 million. Borders' locations have since been purchased and repurposed by other large retailers.
6. Pets[dot]com (1998 – 2000)
Pets.com was an online business that sold pet accessories and supplies direct to consumers over the World Wide Web. Although short-lived, Pets.com managed to find some success during a time when there were no plug and play solutions for ecommerce/warehouse management and customer service that could scale. Pets.com launched in August 1998 and went from an IPO on the Nasdaq stock exchange to liquidation in 268 days.
Its high public profile during its brief existence made it one of the more noteworthy failures of the dot-com bubble of the early 2000s. US$300 million of investment capital vanished with the company's failure. Pets.com is a memorable cautionary tale of a high-profile marketing campaign coupled with weak fundamentals (and poor timing). Today, the Pets.com URL redirects users to PetSmart's website.
7. Tower Records (1960 – 2004)
A pioneer in its time, Tower Records was the first to create the concept of the retail music mega-store. Founded by Russell Solomon in 1960, Tower Records sold CDs, cassette tapes, DVDs, electronic gadgets, video games, accessories and toys. Ahead of its time for a fleeting moment, Tower.com launched in 1995, making it one of the first retailers to move online. It seems the company’s foresights stopped short there as it fell prey excessive debts and ultimately bankruptcy in 2004. Tower Records could not keep up with digital disruptions such as music piracy, iTunes and streaming businesses such as Spotify and Pandora. Its legacy is remembered in the form of the movie ' Empire Records ,' which was written by a former Tower Records employee.
8. Compaq (1982 – 2002)
Compaq was one of the largest sellers of PCs in the entire world in the 1980s and 1990s. The company produced some of the first IBM PC compatible computers, being the first company to legally reverse engineer the IBM Personal Computer. Compaq ultimately struggled to keep up in the price wars against Dell and was acquired for US$25 billion by HP in 2002. The Compaq brand remained in use by HP for lower-end systems until 2013 when it was discontinued.
9. General Motors (1908 – 2009)
After being one of the most important car manufacturers for more than 100 years, and one of the largest companies in the world, General Motors also resulted in one of history’s largest bankruptcies. Failure to innovate and blatantly ignoring competition were key to the company’s demise. As GM focused predominantly on profiting from finance, the business neglected to improve the quality of its product, failed to adapt GM to changes in customer needs and did not invest in new technologies. Through a major bailout from the US government, the current company, General Motors Company ("new GM"), was formed in 2009 and purchased the majority of the assets of the old GM, including the brand "General Motors".
10. Kodak (1889-2012)‘
At one time the world’s biggest film company, Kodak could not keep up with the digital revolution, for fear of cannibalizing its strongest product lines. The leader of design, production and marketing of photographic equipment had a number of opportunities to steer the company in the right direction but its hesitation to fully embrace the transition to digital led to its demise. For example, Kodak invested billions of dollars into developing technology for taking pictures using mobile phones and other digital devices. However, it held back from developing digital cameras for the mass market for fear of eradicating its all-important film business. Competitors, such as the Japanese firm Canon, grasped this opportunity and has consequently outlived the giant. Another example is Kodak’s acquisition of a photo sharing site called Ofoto in 2001. However, instead of pioneering what might have been a predecessor of Instagram, Kodak used Ofoto to try to get more people to print digital images. Kodak filed for bankruptcy in 2012 and after exiting most of its product streams, re-emerged in 2013 as a much smaller, consolidated company focused on serving commercial customers.
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100 DOS AND DON'TS FOR CORPORATE INNOVATION
To help you avoid stepping into these all too common pitfalls, we’ve reflected on our five years as an organization working on corporate innovation programs across the globe, and have prepared 100 DOs and DON’Ts.
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Top 10 Failed Products From Famous Companies
Well-known companies dominating their market don’t always have lucky stars on their side. From failed Halloween-themed products to weird items unrelated to the merchandise they are famous for, these 10 companies are examples of how pushing the boundaries can prove embarrassing.
Top 10 Failed McDonald’s Products
10 Tesla: Cybertruck
Elon Musk, the founder of Tesla, is an entrepreneur, engineer, and industrial designer who revolutionizes transportation on Earth and into space. Elon Musk started Tesla in 2003 and aimed to create environmentally friendly all-electric cars. Tesla’s total revenue has increased from 204.24 million U.S dollars in 2011 to 21461.27 million dollars in 2018. But there have been some bumps in the road.
Although you cannot fully classify this product as a complete flop, the Cybertruck did have an embarrassing demonstration in 2019. Tesla boasts on their website that they built the Cybertruck for “ultimate durability and passenger protection.” The materials used on the car are Ultra-Hard 30X Cold-Rolled stainless-steel and armor glass that will not shatter. But shatter it did.
For the unveiling of the Cybertruck in a 2019 event, Elon Musk started the durability demonstration by slamming a sledgehammer to the car’s body. Next was to throw a large metal ball at the impenetrable armor glass. Lead designer Franz von Holzhausen threw the ball twice, and twice the car’s window smashed. Elon Musk admitted there was “room for improvement” and later explained that the sledgehammer had created an invisible crack in the glass.
9 Apple: Macintosh TV
Apple was founded in 1976 by Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak. These two college dropouts wanted to make computers small enough for the home and office, and they ended up building an empire. Today Apple has many popular products like the iPhone, iPad, and Mac computer. They grew from annual revenues of eight billion U.S. dollars in 2004 to over 270 billion dollars in 2020.
While Apple is well-known for their technological prowess, they are not immune to unsuccessful product ideas. Among their many failed products is the Macintosh TV. It was meant to be a hybrid TV and Mac computer but ended up too expensive, lacking enough storage, and lacking standard video output ports. Apple introduced the Macintosh TV in October 1993 and within four months terminated it in February 1994.
8 Coca-Cola: Diet Coke Plus Green Tea
Despite being a soda company, Coca-Cola tried to cater to health-conscious consumers with their Diet Coke Plus line of products. One product, in particular, the Diet Coke Plus Green Tea, was launched in Japan in 2009, hoping to be a big hit. It contained tea antioxidants that can reduce inflammation and prevent certain cancers.
Japan is known to consume green tea at over 600 grams per person. This fact made it easy to market the drink there. However, Coca-Cola didn’t deliver on the product’s taste, so it never made it globally, including no appearance in the United States.
7 Colgate-Palmolive: Kitchen Entrees
Currently, in 2021, Colgate-Palmolive is the second leading personal care brand worldwide. It has a brand value of 17.4 billion U.S. dollars. It seems sticking to toothpaste and toothbrushes was a wise choice!
6 Burger King: Halloween Whopper
McDonald’s is not the only burger kingpin that has made meals that flopped over the years. In 2015, the Burger King Halloween Whopper proved out of place in the Home of the Whopper when customers reported unpleasant side effects. The burger’s black bun represented the Halloween spirit but led to green bowel movements the next day. As a result, what customers found in their toilet bowls became more popular than the burger’s taste.
The following year, there was no Halloween Burger to be found. But why did it turn feces green? In children and adults, eating food coloring can result in green bowel movements. Our stomachs don’t absorb most food coloring. When dye colors such as blue or purple mix with our yellow-green stomach bile, the result can be green feces.
5 BMW: The M1
Bayerische Motoren Werke AG, commonly known as BMW, is a German car and motorcycle company founded in 1916. Today it is the leading luxury car brand worldwide. The company’s local revenue in 2020 was 99 billion Euros despite car sale drops due to COVID-19.
Although always well-known for its well-designed, reliable luxury cars, BMW didn’t start with a reputation for supercars. In 1978, the company failed to make a dominating sports car for the race tracks. The M1 was unable to compete with the Porsche cars that ruled European racing at the time. For example, in the 1979 Le Mans, France race at Circuit de la Sarthe, Porsche cars finished first to fourth, and the BMW M1 came in sixth. BMW built a limited number of M1 cars and discontinued the line by 1982.
BMW has not given up on developing supercars and recently launched the popular i8 sports car in November 2013. This car is a plug-in hybrid that sold about 28,000 units in 2020 before BMW discontinued it the same year. But this time, not due to lack of popularity.
4 Amazon: Fire Phone
A lot of us have bought something on Amazon, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic while in quarantine. This e-commerce company offers a wide variety of products ranging from retail to pantry items. In 2020, Amazon was the leading e-retailer in the United States with almost 386 billion dollars in net sales.
Jeff Bezos’ Amazon may be the king of e-commerce, but their 2014 Fire Phone burned to the ground. The phone was too expensive at $200, designed more for Bezos than the consumers, and entered the smartphone market too late. In 2014, Apple and Android already had at least eight generations of smartphones. Another reason for its failure was the limited number of apps compared to competitors. The Amazon app store had approximately 240,000. In contrast, Google Play had over 1 million apps in 2014.
The unsold Fire Phones cost Amazon $170 million within three months, and phone companies significantly dropped the retail price. For example, after two months, AT&T offered a deal of 99 cents for the Fire Phone with a 2-year contract.
3 Donald Trump: Trump Steaks
Donald Trump, the 45th President of the United States, is well known for his business empire, including finance and real estate. However, among his successes, he has multiple failed ventures under his belt. One is the Trump Steaks released into the market in 2007. Trump sold the steaks only on QVC and the Sharper Image website. The latter is known for selling electronics, home furnishings, and personal care items more than food. This discrepancy in selling platforms most likely contributed to the failure of the product. The Sharper Image website also decided to discontinue the steaks after only two months.
2 Frito Lay: Cheetos Lip Balm
While you can expect cheesy fingers after eating a bag of Cheetos, not everyone enjoys deliberately smearing cheese on their face. Frito Lays found this out the hard way in 2005 when they released their Cheetos Lip Balm. The company quickly discontinued the product after numerous negative reviews. For example, one customer left a review explaining it “smells like moldy cheese. It doesn’t moisturize well either. An overall thumbs down.”
1 Evian—Water Bra
In 2005, Evian decided to expand into the clothing market with a Water Bra. Evian designed the bra to cool down breasts during the warmer months with pads containing mineral water. There was a filter funnel that allowed women to top off the water to their preference levels. The bra also featured a pouch to hold a miniature water bottle. Evian marketed the water bras’ benefits as toning and shaping your body to be beach-ready in addition to its cooling feature. However, the product was unsuccessful and discontinued not long after its launch. Today, Evian still has no clothing products on their website.
Top 10 Apple Failures
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26 of the most epic product fails in American history
- Launching a new product is no easy feat — even major companies have unexpected flops.
- Less than 3% of new consumer packaged goods exceed first-year sales of $50 million, according to Joan Schneider and Julie Hall, coauthors of "The New Launch Plan."
- Microsoft's Zune failed to compete with the iPod, Cosmopolitan magazine couldn't break into the yogurt business, and McDonald's couldn't sell a burger intended for more sophisticated palates.
- Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.
Launching a product is hard to do.
"Less than 3% of new consumer packaged goods exceed first-year sales of $50 million — considered the benchmark of a highly successful launch," say Joan Schneider and Julie Hall, coauthors of "The New Launch Plan: 152 Tips, Tactics and Trends from the Most Memorable New Products."
That's part of the reason that the most heavy-hitting names in business — from Pepsi to Netflix, Microsoft to McDonald's — have had some of the biggest belly flops.
Read more: 14 rules for using commas without looking like a fool
Here's a look at 26 of them and what we can learn from these epic fails.
Aimee Groth and Jay Yarow contributed reporting to this story.
26. Ford Edsel (1957)
Bill Gates cites the Edsel flop as his favorite case study. Even t he name "Edsel" is synonymous with "marketing failure."
Ford invested $400 million into the car, which it introduced in 1957. But Americans literally weren't buying it, because they wanted "smaller, more economic vehicles," according to Associated Content:
Other pundits have blamed its failure on Ford Motors execs never really defining the model's niche in the car market. The pricing and market aim of most Edsel models was somewhere between the highest-end Ford and the lowest-end Mercury.
It was taken off the market in 1960.
25. Gerber Singles (1974)
—MCD⨯FSG (@mcdbooks) September 25, 2019
Gerber innovated baby food for adults in 1974, with flavors like beef burgundy, Mediterranean vegetables, and blueberry delight.
24. Sony Betamax (1975)
The 1970s saw a war in home video formats between Betamax and VHS.
Sony made a mistake: It started selling the Betamax in 1975, while its rivals started releasing VHS machines. Sony kept Betamax proprietary, meaning it had exclusive rights to the format; consequently, the market for VHS products quickly outpaced the company.
23. New Coke (1985)
In the early 1980s, Coke was losing ground to Pepsi. So it tried to create a product that would taste more like Pepsi .
While New Coke fared OK in nationwide taste tests before launching in 1985, it turned out those were misleading.
Coke abandoned the product after a few weeks and went back to its old formula. It also gave its product a new name: Coca-Cola Classic.
22. Pepsi A.M. (1989)
A post shared by brandmanagement_n (@brandmanagement_n) May 24, 2015 at 3:39am PDT
In 1989, Pepsi tried to target the "breakfast cola drinker" with Pepsi A.M. At the time of its release, The New York Times reported that Pepsi A.M. would have 28% more caffeine per ounce than regular Pepsi. It lasted only a year.
21. RJ Reynolds smokeless cigarettes (1989)
In the 1980s, just as anti-smoking campaigns were heating up, RJ Reynolds put over $300 million into a new product: "Premier," smokeless cigarettes.
According to the Los Angeles Times , the Premier cigarettes heated up tobacco but did not burn it, and consumers did not like their scent or taste. RJ Reynolds pulled the cigarettes after just five months of testing in a handful of cities.
20. Coors Rocky Mountain Spring Water (1990)
This was an interesting experiment in brand extension. Coors Rocky Mountain Spring Water launched in 1990 and didn't fare well. It turns out beer drinkers want only one thing from their favorite label: beer.
19. Crystal Pepsi (1992)
In 1992, Pepsi tried again, this time with a clear cola, "Crystal Pepsi." No dice — it died in 1994.
(That is, until the summer of 2017, when it was briefly revived .)
18. Apple Newton (1993)
The Newton is held up as an example of Apple's bad old days — before it became a company with a $1 trillion market cap .
Forbes says the Newton PDA flopped for a number of reasons: it was too expensive (retailing anywhere from $700 to $1,200), it was too big (8 inches tall by 4.5 inches wide), and its handwriting recognition was so bad that a classic "Simpsons" episode made fun of it .
Read more: The 30 most coveted tech companies to work at, according to thousands of tech workers
17. Microsoft Bob (1995)
Microsoft Bob was supposed to be a user-friendly interface for Windows; the project was managed by Melinda Gates. Microsoft killed it less than two years after it launched.
According to Michael Becraft's biography of Bill Gates, Bill explained, "Unfortunately, the software demanded more performance than typical computer hardware could deliver at the time, and there wasn't an adequately large market, and therefore, Bob died."
16. McDonald's Arch Deluxe (1996)
In 1996, McDonald's introduced the Arch Deluxe, which never caught on.
It was intended to appeal to a more adult, sophisticated palate — outside of its target demographic. To reach this group, McDonald's spent between $150 and $200 million advertising the Arch Deluxe.
According to Delish , the Arch Deluxe was composed of: fresh beef, a potato bun, peppered bacon, and Arch Sauce (mustard and mayonnaise), as well as lettuce, cheese, tomato, and onion.
The Arch Deluxe was ultimately discontinued in the late 1990s. However, McDonald's tested a similar product called the Archburger in 2018.
15. Orbitz soda (1997)
Although the soda, which looks like a lava lamp, appealed to young kids, it was not tasty (people compared it to cough syrup). It disappeared off shelves within a year of its 1997 debut .
Orbitz is still sold on eBay , if you're interested in sampling its gelatinous globs.
14. Frito-Lay WOW! Chips (1998)
File this under "too good to be true."
In the late 1990s, Frito-Lay rolled out a miracle food: a line of chips with the upbeat branding of WOW! and a tantalizing marketing claim — a compound called Olestra made the potato chips essentially fat-free.
But, it was not to be.
"While it provided the satisfaction of tasting just like fat, (Olestra's) molecules were too large to be digested by the body, passing directly through the digestive tract unabsorbed," wrote Sandy Glass at Fast Company . "Sadly, the result was similar to that of a laxative — stomach cramps and diarrhea prevailed."
13. Cosmopolitan Yogurt (1999)
—SpectrumScience (@SpectrumScience) October 21, 2014
Cosmopolitan magazine made an interesting decision to launch a brand of yogurt in 1999. Needless to say, the yogurt market was already saturated, and Cosmo's readers were content enough reading the magazine. The yogurt was discontinued after just 18 months, according to the Telegraph .
(This is not to be confused with Cosmopolitan cocktail-flavored yogurt .)
12. Heinz EZ Squirt Ketchup (2000)
Heinz's colorful line of ketchup came in hues like purple, green, blue, orange, and red. It actually was sold until 2006.
11. Microsoft Zune (2006)
The Zune was built to take on the iPod. It did not.
Robbie Bach, the former leader of Microsoft's home entertainment and mobile business, gave his explanation as to why :
We just weren't brave enough, honestly, and we ended up chasing Apple with a product that actually wasn't a bad product, but it was still a chasing product, and there wasn't a reason for somebody to say, oh, I have to go out and get that thing.
10. Mobile ESPN (2006)
Mobile ESPN, introduced in January 2006, was one of the biggest flame-outs of "mobile virtual network operators," or MVNOs, in the past decade, which also included Amp'd Mobile, Helio, Disney Mobile, and others.
The idea was that ESPN would exclusively sell a phone that offered ESPN content and video, leasing network access from Verizon Wireless. But ESPN had only one phone at launch, a Sanyo device selling for $400.
No one bought it, and ESPN quickly shut down the service, instead providing content to Verizon's mobile internet service.
9. HD DVD (2006)
Sponsored mostly by Toshiba, HD DVD was supposed to become the hi-def successor to the DVD when it launched in March 2006.
But the Sony-led Blu-ray faction ended up winning the format war when Warner Bros. announced it was dumping HD DVD for Blu-ray on January 4, 2008.
About a month later, Toshiba said it would shut down its HD DVD efforts.
8. Joost (2007)
Joost was supposed to reinvent the way we consumed professional video.
Originally known as "The Venice Project," Joost was mean to be a peer-to-peer TV network for the future, invented by the European geniuses behind Skype. The company recruited rising star Mike Volpi away from Cisco to become its CEO. It got a deal with CBS.
Joost's vision was not realized, as Hulu — a joint venture between News Corp., NBC, and Disney — became the go-to site for TV episodes on the web.
Meanwhile, Joost had all sorts of problems with its P2P architecture, its bulky software player, its content library, and more. After launching in September 2007, it never took off, with its scraps being sold in late 2009 .
7. Google Lively (2008)
For some reason, Google thought it had to compete with Second Life with a virtual world called "Lively," which came out in July 2008. ( Except that unlike Second Life, Lively was supposed to be sex-free. )
When the economy went down the toilet, those dreams faded fast, and Google quickly pulled the plug on Lively in November 2008.
6. JooJoo (2009)
In the era of a $499 Apple iPad, an inferior tablet computer that also cost $499 didn't work. (You may remember this device from its previous title, the CrunchPad.) It came out in 2009 and was gone by 2010.
5. The Nook (2009)
Launched in 2009, Barnes & Noble has now spun off the NOOK into its own company, orphaning the under-achieving e-reader . Sales had been plunging for a while .
Brian Sozzi explained the demise to us : "Shoppers couldn't get beyond Barnes & Noble being a destination for something they no longer want or generally care about, books," Sozzi said. " Barnes & Noble management perpetuated that by not investing aggressively enough in marketing to alter perception."
4. Qwikster (2011)
In September 2011, Reed Hastings announced that Netflix would spin off Qwikster as a DVD rental business. This move met tons of criticism , and Hastings backtracked on his statement 23 days later .
3. HP Touchpad (2011)
HP gave up the TouchPad and its mobile OS, WebOS, after just a month and a half on the market .
The tablet was no iPad killer, selling just 25,000 units for Best Buy over the 49 days it was on the shelves .
2. Burger King Satisfries
Burger King rolled out its healthier "Satisfries" in 2013 — they absorbed less oil and were only 270 calories (compared to the 340 calories of regular fries), according to Bloomberg . Weak sales led the fast-food chain to pull the plug in 2014.
1. Facebook Home (2013)
With Home, Facebook tried to become the homescreen for your phone .
It failed. From our review :
So what happens when you have no control over what appears on your phone's home screen?
It becomes a mess.
In less than a month of being released, the two-year subscription plan dropped from $99 to $0.99 . The consensus between reviewers and critics: Home worked only for the most fanatical of users.
"It was fine for a Facebook addict," one reviewer noted . "But [it] seems to run through a lot of data and battery. Uninstalled."
The flop is reflected by a reorganization in the company .
"Facebook has disbanded the team of engineers originally assigned to work on Facebook Home," The New York Times' Mike Isaac reports.
Read more: Facebook has partnered with Ray-Ban's parent company to create smart glasses
Disclosure: Mathias Döpfner, CEO of Business Insider's parent company, Axel Springer, is a Netflix board member.
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Why Good Projects Fail Anyway
- Nadim Matta
- Ron Ashkenas
When a promising project doesn’t deliver, chances are the problem wasn’t the idea but how it was carried out. Here’s a way to design projects that guards against unnecessary failure.
Big projects fail at an astonishing rate—more than half the time, by some estimates. It’s not hard to understand why. Complicated long-term projects are customarily developed by a series of teams working along parallel tracks. If managers fail to anticipate everything that might fall through the cracks, those tracks will not converge successfully at the end to reach the goal.
Take a companywide CRM project. Traditionally, one team might analyze customers, another select the software, a third develop training programs, and so forth. When the project’s finally complete, though, it may turn out that the salespeople won’t enter in the requisite data because they don’t understand why they need to. This very problem has, in fact, derailed many CRM programs at major organizations.
There is a way to uncover unanticipated problems while the project is still in development. The key is to inject into the overall plan a series of miniprojects, or “rapid-results initiatives,” which each have as their goal a miniature version of the overall goal. In the CRM project, a single team might be charged with increasing the revenues of one sales group in one region by 25% within four months. To reach that goal, team members would have to draw on the work of all the parallel teams. But in just four months, they would discover the salespeople’s resistance and probably other unforeseen issues, such as, perhaps, the need to divvy up commissions for joint-selling efforts.
The World Bank has used rapid-results initiatives to great effect to keep a sweeping 16-year project on track and deliver visible results years ahead of schedule. In taking an in-depth look at this project, and others, the authors show why this approach is so effective and how the initiatives are managed in conjunction with more traditional project activities.
The Idea in Brief
Big projects fail at an astonishing rate—well over half, by some estimates. Why are efforts involving many people working over extended periods of time so problematic? Traditional project planning carries three serious risks:
- streams Planners leave gaps in the project plan by failing to anticipate all the project’s required activities and work .
- properly Project team members fail to carry out designated activities .
- results Team members execute all tasks flawlessly—on time and within budget—but don’t knit all the project pieces together at the end. The project doesn’t deliver the intended .
Manage these risks with rapid-results initiatives : small projects designed to quickly deliver mini-versions of the big project’s end results. Through rapid-results initiatives, project team members iron out kinks early and on a small scale. Rapid-results teams serve as models for subsequent teams who can roll out the initiative on a larger scale with greater confidence. The teams feel the satisfaction of delivering real value, and their company gets early payback on its investments.
The Idea in Practice
Rapid-results initiatives have several defining characteristics:
- scale—The initiatives produce measurable payoffs on a small .
The World Bank wanted to improve the productivity of 120,000 small-scale farmers in Nicaragua by 30% in 16 years. Its rapid-results initiatives included “increase pig weight on 30 farms by 30% in 100 days using enhanced corn seed.”
- activities—The initiatives include people from different parts of the organization—or even different organizations—who work in tandem within a very short time frame to implement slices of several horizontal—or parallel-track—activities. The traditional emphasis on disintegrated, horizontal, long-term activities gives way to the integrated, vertical, and short-term. The teams uncover activities falling in the white space between horizontal project streams, and properly integrate the .
Take a companywide CRM project. Traditionally, one team might analyze customers, another select the software, a third develop training programs. When the project’s finally complete, though, it may turn out that the salespeople won’t enter the requisite data because they don’t understand why they need to. Using rapid-results initiatives, a single team might be charged with increasing the revenues of one sales group in one region within four months. To reach that goal, team members would have to draw on the work of all the parallel teams. And they would quickly discover the salespeople’s resistance and other unforeseen issues.
- results—The initiatives strive for results and lessons in less than 100 days. Designed to deliver quick wins, they more importantly change the way teams work. How? The short time frame establishes a sense of urgency from the start, poses personal challenges, and leaves no time to waste on interorganizational bickering. It also stimulates creativity and encourages team members to experiment with new ideas that deliver concrete .
Balancing Vertical and Horizontal Activities
Vertical, rapid-results initiatives offer many benefits. But that doesn’t mean you should eliminate all horizontal activities. Such activities offer cost-effective economies of scale. The key is to balance vertical and horizontal, spread insights among teams, and blend all activities into an overall implementation strategy. Example:
Dissatisfied with its 8% revenue increase in two years, office-products company Avery Dennison launched 15 rapid-results teams in three North American divisions. After only three months, the teams were meeting their goals—e.g., securing one new order for an enhanced product with one large customer within 100 days. Top management extended the rapid-results process throughout the company, reinforcing it with an extensive employee communication program. As horizontal activities continued, dozens more teams started rapid-results initiatives. Results? $8 million+ in new sales, and $50 million in sales forecast by year-end.
Big projects fail at an astonishing rate. Whether major technology installations, postmerger integrations, or new growth strategies, these efforts consume tremendous resources over months or even years. Yet as study after study has shown, they frequently deliver disappointing returns—by some estimates, in fact, well over half the time. And the toll they take is not just financial. These failures demoralize employees who have labored diligently to complete their share of the work. One middle manager at a top pharmaceutical company told us, “I’ve been on dozens of task teams in my career, and I’ve never actually seen one that produced a result.”
The problem is, the traditional approach to project management shifts the project teams’ focus away from the end result toward developing recommendations, new technologies, and partial solutions. The intent, of course, is to piece these together into a blueprint that will achieve the ultimate goal, but when a project involves many people working over an extended period of time, it’s very hard for managers planning it to predict all the activities and work streams that will be needed. Unless the end product is very well understood, as it is in highly technical engineering projects such as building an airplane, it’s almost inevitable that some things will be left off the plan. And even if all the right activities have been anticipated, they may turn out to be difficult, or even impossible, to knit together once they’re completed.
Managers use project plans, timelines, and budgets to reduce what we call “execution risk”—the risk that designated activities won’t be carried out properly—but they inevitably neglect these two other critical risks—the “white space risk” that some required activities won’t be identified in advance, leaving gaps in the project plan, and the “integration risk” that the disparate activities won’t come together at the end. So project teams can execute their tasks flawlessly, on time and under budget, and yet the overall project may still fail to deliver the intended results.
We’ve worked with hundreds of teams over the past 20 years, and we’ve found that by designing complex projects differently, managers can reduce the likelihood that critical activities will be left off the plan and increase the odds that all the pieces can be properly integrated at the end. The key is to inject into the overall plan a series of miniprojects—what we call rapid-results initiatives —each staffed with a team responsible for a version of the hoped-for overall result in miniature and each designed to deliver its result quickly.
Let’s see what difference that would make. Say, for example, your goal is to double sales revenue over two years by implementing a customer relationship management (CRM) system for your sales force. Using a traditional project management approach, you might have one team research and install software packages, another analyze the different ways that the company interacts with customers (e-mail, telephone, and in person, for example), another develop training programs, and so forth. Many months later, however, when you start to roll out the program, you might discover that the salespeople aren’t sold on the benefits. So even though they may know how to enter the requisite data into the system, they refuse. This very problem has, in fact, derailed many CRM programs at major organizations.
But consider the way the process might unfold if the project included some rapid-results initiatives. A single team might take responsibility for helping a small number of users—say, one sales group in one region—increase their revenues by 25% within four months. Team members would probably draw on all the activities described above, but to succeed at their goal, the microcosm of the overall goal, they would be forced to find out what, if anything, is missing from their plans as they go forward. Along the way, they would, for example, discover the salespeople’s resistance, and they would be compelled to educate the sales staff about the system’s benefits. The team may also discover that it needs to tackle other issues, such as how to divvy up commissions on sales resulting from cross-selling or joint-selling efforts.
This article also appears in:
HBR Guide to Managing Strategic Initiatives
When they’ve ironed out all the kinks on a small scale, their work would then become a model for the next teams, which would either engage in further rapid-results initiatives or roll the system out to the whole organization—but now with a higher level of confidence that the project will have the intended impact on sales revenue. The company would see an early payback on its investment and gain new insights from the team’s work, and the team would have the satisfaction of delivering real value.
In the pages that follow, we’ll take a close look at rapid-results initiatives, using case studies to show how these projects are selected and designed and how they are managed in conjunction with more traditional project activities.
How Rapid-Results Teams Work
Let’s look at an extremely complex project, a World Bank initiative begun in June 2000 that aims to improve the productivity of 120,000 small-scale farmers in Nicaragua by 30% in 16 years. A project of this magnitude entails many teams working over a long period of time, and it crosses functional and organizational boundaries.
They started as they had always done: A team of World Bank experts and their clients in the country (in this case, Ministry of Agriculture officials) spent many months in preparation—conducting surveys, analyzing data, talking to people with comparable experiences in other countries, and so on. Based on their findings, these project strategists, designers, and planners made an educated guess about the major streams of work that would be required to reach the goal. These work streams included reorganizing government institutions that give technical advice to farmers, encouraging the creation of a private-sector market in agricultural support services (such as helping farmers adopt new farming technologies and use improved seeds), strengthening the National Institute for Agricultural Technology (INTA), and establishing an information management system that would help agricultural R&D institutions direct their efforts to the most productive areas of research. The result of all this preparation was a multiyear project plan, a document laying out the work streams in detail.
Managers expect they can plan for all the variables in a complex project in advance, but they can’t. Nobody is that smart or has that clear a crystal ball.
But if the World Bank had kept proceeding in the traditional way on a project of this magnitude, it would have been years before managers found out if something had been left off the plan or if the various work streams could be integrated—and thus if the project would ultimately achieve its goals. By that time, millions of dollars would have been invested and much time potentially wasted. What’s more, even if everything worked according to plan, the project’s beneficiaries would have been waiting for years before seeing any payoff from the effort. As it happened, the project activities proceeded on schedule, but a new minister of agriculture came on board two years in and argued that he needed to see results sooner than the plan allowed. His complaint resonated with Norman Piccioni, the World Bank team leader, who was also getting impatient with the project’s pace. As he said at the time, “Apart from the minister, the farmers, and me, I’m not sure anyone working on this project is losing sleep over whether farmer productivity will be improved or not.”
Over the next few months, we worked with Piccioni to help him and his clients add rapid-results initiatives to the implementation process. They launched five teams, which included not only representatives from the existing work streams but also the beneficiaries of the project, the farmers themselves. The teams differed from traditional implementation teams in three fundamental ways. Rather than being partial, horizontal, and long term, they were results oriented, vertical, and fast. A look at each attribute in turn shows why they were more effective.
As the name suggests, a rapid-results initiative is intentionally commissioned to produce a measurable result, rather than recommendations, analyses, or partial solutions. And even though the goal is on a smaller scale than the overall objective, it is nonetheless challenging. In Nicaragua, one team’s goal was to increase Grade A milk production in the Leon municipality from 600 to 1,600 gallons per day in 120 days in 60 small and medium-size producers. Another was to increase pig weight on 30 farms by 30% in 100 days using enhanced corn seed. A third was to secure commitments from private-sector experts to provide technical advice and agricultural support to 150 small-scale farmers in the El Sauce (the dry farming region) within 100 days.
This results orientation is important for three reasons. First, it allows project planners to test whether the activities in the overall plan will add up to the intended result and to alter the plans if need be. Second, it produces real benefits in the short term. Increasing pig weight in 30 farms by 30% in just over three months is useful to those 30 farmers no matter what else happens in the project. And finally, being able to deliver results is more rewarding and energizing for teams than plodding along through partial solutions.
The focus on results also distinguishes rapid-results initiatives from pilot projects, which are used in traditionally managed initiatives only to reduce execution risk. Pilots typically are designed to test a preconceived solution, or means, such as a CRM system, and to work out implementation details before rollout. Rapid-results initiatives, by contrast, are aimed squarely at reducing white space and integration risk.
Project plans typically unfold as a series of activities represented on a timeline by horizontal bars. In this context, rapid-results initiatives are vertical. They encompass a slice of several horizontal activities, implemented in tandem in a very short time frame. By using the term “vertical,” we also suggest a cross-functional effort, since different horizontal work streams usually include people from different parts of an organization (or even, as in Nicaragua, different organizations), and the vertical slice brings these people together. This vertical orientation is key to reducing white space and integration risks in the overall effort: Only by uncovering and properly integrating any activities falling in the white space between the horizontal project streams will the team be able to deliver its miniresult. (For a look at the horizontal and vertical work streams in the Nicaragua project, see the exhibit “The World Bank’s Project Plan.”)
The World Bank's Project Plan
A project plan typically represents the planned activities as horizontal bars plotted over time. But in most cases, it’s very difficult to accurately assess all the activities that will be required to complete a complicated long-term project. We don’t know what will fall into the white space between the bars. It’s also difficult to know whether these activities can be integrated seamlessly at the end; the teams working in isolation may develop solutions that won’t fit together. Rapid-results initiatives cut across horizontal activities, focusing on a miniversion of the overall result rather than on a set of activities.
Here is a simplified version of the Nicaragua project described in this article. Each vertical team (depicted as a group by the vertical bar) includes representatives from every horizontal team, which makes the two types of initiatives mutually reinforcing. So, for example, the horizontal work stream labeled “Set up private-sector market in agricultural support services” includes activities like developing a system of coupons to subsidize farmers’ purchases. The vertical team establishing service contracts between technical experts and farmers drew on this work, providing the farmers with coupons they could use to buy the technical services. This, in turn, drove competition in the private sector, calling on the work that the people on the horizontal training teams were doing—which led to better services.
The team working on securing commitments between farmers and technical experts in the dry farming region, for example, had to knit together a broad set of activities. The experts needed to be trained to deliver particular services that the farmers were demanding because they had heard about new ways to increase their productivity through the information management system. That, in turn, was being fed information coming out of INTA’s R&D efforts, which were directed toward addressing specific problems the farmers had articulated. So team members had to draw on a number of the broad horizontal activities laid out in the overall project plan and integrate them into their vertical effort. As they did so, they discovered that they had to add activities missing from the original horizontal work streams. Despite the team members’ heroic efforts to integrate the ongoing activities, for instance, 80 days into their 100-day initiative, they had secured only half the commitments they were aiming for. Undeterred and spurred on by the desire to accomplish their goal, team members drove through the towns of the region announcing with loudspeakers the availability and benefits of the technical services. Over the following 20 days, the gap to the goal was closed. To close the white space in the project plan, “marketing of technical services” was added as another horizontal stream.
How fast is fast? Rapid-results projects generally last no longer than 100 days. But they are by no means quick fixes, which imply shoddy or short-term solutions. And while they deliver quick wins, the more important value of these initiatives is that they change the way teams approach their work. The short time frame fosters a sense of personal challenge, ensuring that team members feel a sense of urgency right from the start that leaves no time to squander on big studies or interorganizational bickering. In traditional horizontal work streams, the gap between current status and the goal starts out far wider, and a feeling of urgency does not build up until a short time before the day of reckoning. Yet it is precisely at that point that committed teams kick into a high-creativity mode and begin to experiment with new ideas to get results. That kick comes right away in rapid-results initiatives.
A Shift in Accountability
In most complex projects, the executives shaping and assigning major work streams assume the vast majority of the responsibility for the project’s success. They delegate execution risk to project teams, which are responsible for staying on time and on budget, but they inadvertently leave themselves carrying the full burden of white space and integration risk. In World Bank projects, as in most complex and strategically critical efforts, these risks can be huge.
When executives assign a team responsibility for a result, however, the team is free—indeed, compelled—to find out what activities will be needed to produce the result and how those activities will fit together. This approach puts white space and integration risk onto the shoulders of the people doing the work. That’s appropriate because, as they work, they can discover on the spot what’s working and what’s not. And in the end, they are rewarded not for performing a series of tasks but for delivering real value. Their success is correlated with benefits to the organization, which will come not only from implementing known activities but also from identifying and integrating new activities.
The milk productivity team in Nicaragua, for example, found out early on that the quantity of milk production was not the issue. The real problem was quality: Distributors were being forced to dump almost half the milk they had bought due to contamination, spoilage, and other problems. So the challenge was to produce milk acceptable to large distributors and manufacturers that complied with international quality standards. Based on this understanding, the team leader invited a representative of Parmalat, the biggest private company in Nicaragua’s dairy sector, to join the team. Collaborating with this customer allowed the team to understand Parmalat’s quality standards and thus introduce proper hygiene practices to the milk producers in Leon. The collaboration also identified the need for simple equipment such as a centrifuge that could test the quality of batches quickly.
The quality of milk improved steadily in the initial stage of the effort. But then the team discovered that its goal of tripling sales was in danger due to a logistics problem: There wasn’t adequate storage available for the additional Grade A milk now being produced. Rather than invest in refrigeration facilities, the Parmalat team member (now assured of the quality of the milk) suggested that the company conduct collection runs in the area daily rather than twice weekly.
At the end of 120 days, the milk productivity team (renamed the “clean-milking” team) and the other four teams not only achieved their goals but also generated a new appreciation for the discovery process. As team leader Piccioni observed at a follow-up workshop: “I now realize how much of the overall success of the effort depends on people discovering for themselves what goals to set and what to do to achieve them.”
What’s more, the work is more rewarding for the people involved. It may seem paradoxical, but virtually all the teams we’ve encountered prefer to work on projects that have results-oriented goals, even though they involve some risk and require some discovery, rather than implement clearly predefined tasks.
The Leadership Balancing Act
Despite the obvious benefits of rapid-results initiatives, few companies should use them to replace the horizontal activities altogether. Because of their economies of scale, horizontal activities are a cost-efficient way to work. And so it is the job of the leadership team to balance rapid-results initiatives with longer-term horizontal activities, help spread insights from team to team, and blend everything into an overall implementation strategy.
In Nicaragua, the vertical teams drew members from the horizontal teams, but these people continued to work on the horizontal streams as well, and each team benefited from the work of the others. So, for example, when the milk productivity team discovered the need to educate farmers in clean-milking practices, the horizontal training team knew to adjust the design of its overall training programs accordingly.
The adhesive-material and office-product company Avery Dennison took a similar approach, creating a portfolio of rapid-results initiatives and horizontal work streams as the basis for its overall growth acceleration strategy. Just over a year ago, the company was engaged in various horizontal activities like new technology investments and market studies. The company was growing, but CEO Phil Neal and his leadership team were not satisfied with the pace. Although growth was a major corporate goal, the company had increased its revenues by only 8% in two years.
In August 2002, Neal and president Dean Scarborough tested the vertical approach in three North American divisions, launching 15 rapid-results teams in a matter of weeks. One was charged with securing one new order for an enhanced product, refined in collaboration with one large customer, within 100 days. Another focused on signing up three retail chains so it could use that experience to develop a methodology for moving into new distribution channels. A third aimed to book several hundred thousand dollars in sales in 100 days by providing—through a collaboration with three other suppliers—all the parts needed by a major customer. By December, it had become clear that the vertical growth initiatives were producing results, and the management team decided to extend the process throughout the company, supported by an extensive employee communication campaign. The horizontal activities continued, but at the same time dozens of teams, involving hundreds of people, started working on rapid-results initiatives. By the end of the first quarter of 2003, these teams yielded more than $8 million in new sales, and the company was forecasting that the initiatives would realize approximately $50 million in sales by the end of the year.
Rapid-results initiatives challenge senior leaders to cede control.
The Diversified Products business of Zurich North America, a division of Zurich Financial Services, has taken a similarly strategic approach. CEO Rob Fishman and chief underwriting officer Gary Kaplan commissioned and launched dozens of rapid-results initiatives between April 1999 and December 2002. Their overall long-term objectives were to improve their financial performance and strengthen relationships with core clients. And so they combined vertical teams focused on such goals as increasing payments from a small number of clients for value-added services with horizontal activities targeting staff training, internal processes, and the technology infrastructure. The results were dramatic: In less than four years, loss ratios in the property side of the business dropped by 90%, the expense ratio was cut in half, and fees for value-added services increased tenfold.
Now, when you’re managing a portfolio of vertical initiatives and horizontal activities, one of the challenges becomes choosing where to focus the verticals. We generally advise company executives to identify aspects of the effort that they’re fairly sure will fail if they are not closely coordinated with one another. We also engage the leadership team in a discussion aimed at identifying other areas of potential uncertainty or risk. Based on those discussions, we ask executives to think of projects that could replicate their longer-term goals on a small scale in a short time and provide the maximum opportunity for learning and discovery.
For instance, at Johnson & Johnson’s pharmaceutical R&D group, Thomas Kirsch, the head of global quality assurance, needed to integrate the QA functions for two traditionally autonomous clinical R&D units whose people were located around the world. Full integration was a major undertaking that would unfold over many years, so in addition to launching an extensive series of horizontal activities like developing training standards and devising a system for standardizing currently disparate automated reports, Kirsch also assigned rapid-results teams to quickly put in place several standard operating procedures (SOPs) that cut across the horizontal work streams. The rapid-results teams were focused on the areas he perceived would put the company in the greatest danger of failing to comply with U.S. and European regulations and also on areas where he saw opportunities to generate knowledge that could be applied companywide. There’s no science to this approach; it’s an iterative process of successive approximation, not a cut-and-dried analytical exercise.
In fact, there are really no “wrong” choices when it comes to deciding which rapid-results initiatives to add to the portfolio. In the context of a large-scale, multiyear, high-stakes effort, each 100-day initiative focused on a targeted result is a relatively low-risk investment. Even if it does not fully realize its goal, the rapid-results initiative will produce valuable lessons and help further illuminate the path to the larger objective. And it will suggest other, and perhaps better-focused, targets for rapid results.
A Call for Humility
Rapid-results initiatives give some new responsibilities to frontline team members while challenging senior leaders to cede control and rethink the way they see themselves. Zurich North America’s Gary Kaplan found that the process led him to reflect on his role. “I had to learn to let go: Establishing challenging goals and giving others the space to figure out what it takes to achieve these…did not come naturally to me.”
Attempting to achieve complex goals in fast-moving and unpredictable environments is humbling. Few leaders and few organizations have figured out how to do it consistently. We believe that a starting point for greater success is shedding the blueprint model that has implicitly driven executive behavior in the management of major efforts. Managers expect they will be able to identify, plan for, and influence all the variables and players in advance, but they can’t. Nobody is that smart or has that clear a crystal ball. They can, however, create an ongoing process of learning and discovery, challenging the people close to the action to produce results—and unleashing the organization’s collective knowledge and creativity in pursuit of discovery and achievement.
- NM Nadim Matta is Head Catalyst and founding Board member of the Rapid Results Institute , a non-profit organization that pioneered the use of 100-Day Challenges to help communities and government agencies around the world make breakthroughs and accelerate progress on tough social issues.
- Ron Ashkenas is a coauthor of the Harvard Business Review Leader’s Handbook and a Partner Emeritus at Schaffer Consulting . His previous books include The Boundaryless Organization , The GE Work-Out , and Simply Effective .
The main reasons why business projects fail
If we are going to stem the tide of failed projects, we need to get an understanding of the common reasons why business projects fail. Here are some of the more common reasons, and what can be done to mitigate them.
Depending on which research article you look at, anywhere from 50-70% of all business projects fail. (Search for “what percentage of business projects fail?” – I dare you!) While I have seen my fair share of business project flops, I cannot say that I have worked for any organization that has been successful only 20% of the time.
That said, I believe that everyone will agree that there are very few projects that manage to come in on time, on budget, and with the expected deliverables. Even when they are not outright failures, too many projects arrive on the scene late, slow, limping, requiring immediate fixes, and/or missing key features of the business system they replaced.
It seems somewhat strange that all the education given and documentation published about project management has not resulted in more effective project management. Is there an underlying cause? Yes.
In my experience, there are several underlying reasons why business projects fail or underperform. We will now outline some of main reasons why business projects underperform and, in general, do not succeed.
Imbalance of power/responsibility
One key problem that becomes quite evident in why business projects fail is that the people with the authority to make decisions about how the project will proceed, almost never have to personally bear the responsibility for the fallout from those decisions. If people are allowed to increase the scope of the project, or otherwise constrain options in the project, but then are not penalized for the additional time or complexity introduced into the project, then there is likely to be an undesirable outcome for the project.
Solution: There needs to be some balance among stakeholders, such that those most affected by an outcome can have an appropriate voice in the decision making process.
Everyone is not at the table
Another key problem that often results in projects coming off track, is when foundational assumptions are established for a project before everyone who could weigh in on the issue has been made aware that they need to weigh in. This is not quite the same issue as an imbalance of power. It’s an issue where there are many “starting points” for the project, and at each of those starting points, critical decisions are made which are deemed irrevocable/irreversible, but not everyone has yet arrived who could intelligently weigh in on the decision.
Common example: The vendor is pre-selected by a business unit or senior management, before legal and IT are even aware of the project. (Okay, so the legal team can usually avoid this problem).
Solution: It is important to have a formal project starting point, and valid business criteria for kicking off a project, and no external pre-conditions should be applied before all stakeholders and subject matter experts (SMEs) have had a chance to weigh in.
Insufficient Clout does not imply any personal inadequacies or lack of charisma. What I’m highlighting here is that the person who is managing the project or who is the business owner for the project, lacks sufficient authority to keep everyone else focused on the project to the degree required for success. This can be due to their organizational standing (outranked by too many of the project players), or because of competing business interests (overutilization of project resources on projects deemed more critical to the organization).
Solution: Projects need to be headed up by someone who is delegated enough authority to manage the project successfully, and this delegation needs to be respected by the entire organization and enforced by senior management until the project has been completed.
Certainly, personal immaturity introduces a degree of risk into every business project, but more important than this, is organizational immaturity. As a corporate society, we have spent lots of time over the past few decades preaching project management discipline and training/certifying project management professionals. Yet, very little has been done to train senior management and organizations on a whole about why business projects fail and what makes business projects successful .
Too many organizations are just flying by the seat of their collective pants, with little disciple or consistency of methodology. And attempts to introduce organizational maturity are often seen as bureaucracy, rather than much-needed disciple. The following are common symptoms of immature organizations where project management is concerned:
- Inconsistent project initiation processes
- Overutilization of staff (not taking non-project workloads into account)
- Starting new projects before old ones are complete
- Unclear requirements and metrics
- Failure to properly access project dependencies
- Inadequate communication to all stakeholders in all directions
Remember: The above list contains just some of the more common problems – this is not close to being an exhaustive list.
Solution: It is vitally important that organizations realize that successful project management is not just the domain of the project manager, in the same way that successful business management is not just the domain of the CEO. Successful leaders know that their organizations can only be successful as every member of the organization is successful. This is true for projects as well. There can only be success in projects if everyone throughout the whole organization is not prevented from succeeding in their sphere of responsibility.
This will require patience, discipline, appropriate staffing/workload balance, realistic expectations, and hard work – but it is absolutely achievable.
Don’t undermine your organization’s ability to manage its projects successfully by allowing authority/responsibility imbalances, or by having inconsistent processes around project initiation and governance.
And don’t take on more than you can actually handle as an organization. There’s always one more must-do money-making project you think you could be doing, but if you take it on, you could very well jeopardize the projects you are already engaged in. To put it another way, when you have reached the maximum number of eggs you can safely juggle (n), adding one more egg to the picture will risk the loss of n+1 eggs.
Unless your goal is to make lots of omelets, you would be well advised to choose a more prudent path.
You should also read:
5 practical steps to avoid a cyber attack
Understanding the e-rate process [download primer].
Andrew is a technical writer and blogger for Source One Technology in Milwaukee . See Andrew's complete social presence at XeeMe.com\AndrewBaker
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Project Failure: 12 Reasons Why Projects Fail (+Solutions)
Last updated on 5th December 2022
In this article we’re going to take a look at 12 reasons why projects fail, and also some solutions so that you can fix these failures if you ever run across them. Or, ideally, prevent them from ever happening to your projects!
Project failure is no joke. The consequences for a business when a project fails can be catastrophic, both emotionally when it comes to team morale and, of course, financially.
According to a report from The Evolving Enterprise , the cost of unsuccessful projects in 2020 was estimated at $260 billion .
A frightening number! So, without further ado, let’s take a look at reasons why projects fail (and how you can avoid them).
What is considered a project failure?
A project is considered a failure when it does not deliver what was required either on-time or within the agreed-upon budget (or worse, both).
A project that at first appears to be a success can also be considered a failure after the fact, if it fails to meet projected ROI targets.
Of course, “failure” is a subjective term and will mean different things to different projects. But you will likely know if your own project is failing because it won’t meet the specific targets you put in place, delays will occur, money will be lost, and morale will probably suffer as a result.
12 Reasons why projects fail
There are many reasons why projects fail. And because projects and teams vary so much it can be difficult to pinpoint areas of risk for your own project. But here are 12 of the most common to give you a headstart…
1. Little to no planning
“ Failing to plan is planning to fail ”, as the saying goes.
Without a solid plan in place your team may not fully understand the most fundamental parts of your project, such as what their roles are, what their tasks are, and how long the project is supposed to take or how much it’s supposed to cost.
Planning also extends to managing your resources to ensure you have everything in place to meet the project requirements and people aren’t being overworked or under-utilised. The same applies to financial planning and forecasting, to ensure you don’t go over your budget.
Without a strong plan in place that covers all of these bases, a project can quickly and easily fall to pieces.
Fortunately, the solution is simple: create a plan! Or, create several plans – one for your budget, one for resources, and a timeline.
The best way to get started is to gather all of the people who will be involved in the project in an initial kickoff meeting . This way you can hash out the details and give everyone opportunities to ask questions.
After the meeting it’s important to write everything up into a more concrete plan that you can then share with the project team.
A great way to do this is by using a project management tool . That way you can plot everything out and give all team members access to what they need in one centralised place.
2. Lack of clarity
This goes hand in hand with poor planning, but it also deserves to be its own point. After all, many projects have failed due to the very simple error of spending too much time on “the big picture” and neglecting the practical steps required to get there.
When there is a lack of clarity in a project and teams aren’t sure what their goals or objectives are, this can cause huge issues. For example, if your project is to improve your software in order to increase sales. That’s a great goal, but it’s incredibly vague.
Without clear tasks and timelines, your teams will simply be shooting in the dark.
Large or vague goals should be broken down into smaller, actionable tasks that are then plotted across a project timeline.
This is easy to do with a tool like Project.co . With Project.co you can assign tasks to different team members, adding as much or as little detail as you want, including a due date, a checklist, relevant files, and more.
You can also see your entire teams’ tasks at a glance with a number of different views to choose from. Here’s our scheduler view which shows different team member’s tasks for the month:
It’s also worth noting that when it comes to creating actionable tasks to keep your project on track, it can help to follow the SMART criteria.
SMART is an acronym which stands for:
If you can ensure that each task meets these requirements then you should have all the clarity you need to chip away at your project until it’s completed, in-time and on-budget!
3. Poor communication
This is a biggie! Poor communication can have a devastating impact on projects, resulting in missed deadlines, stressed teams, unhappy customers, and more.
According to our Communication Statistics 2022 report , 35% of businesses have lost an employee because of poor internal communication and 46% of businesses have lost a customer due to poor external communication , so this is a serious problem.
Poor communication can stem from a couple of different places. It can happen when it isn’t clear who the contacts are for each stage of your project, especially if your project involves multiple teams .
It can also happen as a result of communication being siloed in different tools. For example, if some people use Slack and others use email it can be difficult to find the correct information when it’s needed.
First of all, make it clear from the outset who your points of contact are. This is something that should be made clear during your initial kickoff meeting.
Then, if it’s feasible, these contacts should meet regularly to discuss the progress of the project. This doesn’t need to be a full-blown meeting, but a quick video call once a week to check in will really help to keep communication flowing smoothly.
Another way to improve communication throughout your project is to use one tool that everyone can access.
The Project.co discussions feature keeps all project communication in one centralised and secure place:
Messages come through in real-time and are easy to search through at a later date. You can add reactions, attach files, and do pretty much everything you can do with any other communication tool!
4. Scope creep
The scope of your project covers everything you are going to do. And, perhaps more importantly, it also outlines everything you’re not going to do.
The project scope is important because it helps you to successfully plan projects, including projected costs and timelines, and it can also help you to manage customer expectations.
Scope creep occurs when the project begins to move outside of the parameters initially laid out. It’s a very easy trap to fall into because it can begin with what appears to be very minimal changes.
That’s why it’s called “creeping”, because slowly you begin to move away from your project scope and after a while it becomes difficult to meet your deadlines and remain on budget.
You need to define the scope of the project at your very first meeting. This should include transparent specifics such as the budget, the timeline, the points of contact, and the stakeholders.
It should also include what is outside of the scope. For example, “ any changes made after Stage A of the project is completed will result in further charges and delays .”
This can seem like a difficult conversation to have in the first instance, but it’s preferable to discussing these issues mid-project when it can feel like a nasty and unexpected surprise to both clients and your employees.
5. Too many cooks
Everyone knows this old adage, and it often proves to be true.
Too many stakeholders can cause the timeline of a project to be dragged out. It can also result in numerous unnecessary changes, and will generally lead to at least some people being unhappy with the end result ( if the project ever makes it to completion! )
This also falls under ‘stakeholder management’. If you have, say, 10 stakeholders to manage, then they won’t all be equally engaged with the project. It’s likely that the project is low down on the priority list for some of them, and so they could take longer to give feedback, and make changes that are not in line with the direction the project is supposed to be heading in.
The reality is, the more stakeholders a project has, the higher the possibility of project failure.
The ideal solution here is to assign one stakeholder who holds rank above everyone else at the start of the project. Someone who has the final say and can be counted on to steer the project in the right direction.
Of course, that isn’t always possible. For projects with multiple stakeholders it’s important to be clear about expectations up front. Let stakeholders know when they are expected to give feedback on the project and what kind of feedback is most constructive.
If stakeholders do start to become unmanageable (which is bound to happen from time to time), then try to get them all together in a meeting so you can remind them of the project objective and ensure everyone is moving in the same direction.
6. Lack of visibility
As projects progress, especially if you’re dealing with long projects that run on for weeks or months, team members can begin to lose visibility.
Email threads quickly become buried in inboxes, files are misplaced, and it becomes difficult to know which version is the latest.
According to our Communication Statistics 2022 report, information silos are a big problem. 63% of people have missed a piece of important information because it went to a siloed communication source , and 62% have lost a file either in their inbox, on their hard drive, or in another place that was inaccessible to others .
Luckily, the solution for this is simple. You need to keep everything to do with your project in one secure and easy to access place. The best way to do this is with a project management tool, like Project.co .
With Project.co, you can keep all of your project-related material from communications to files and even payments in one place.
We also have an Embeds tool that allows team members to share live and working versions of project files, so that everyone knows where the latest version is and they can leave feedback and collaborate in real time – without ever leaving the project!
Our Kanban feature is also a great way to give everyone visibility into the project timeline:
This is completely customisable and it’s drag-and-drop so it’s easy to update your timeline on the fly. To find out more about kanban, check out this article: Everything you need to know about kanban project management .
7. No market research
If the project you’re working on is something you want to sell or roll out to your customers then market research should be a big part of your initial planning stage.
Many projects fail due to a lack of, or not enough, market research. Researching the market that you’re targeting is an important way to find out if there is a need, want, or demand for the product you’re making – and things you uncover while conducting this research can help to positively inform your project and give you more chance of success!
This is easy to solve but takes time and effort. Market research can be done in a number of ways. One of the most popular ways to research your market is by conducting a survey.
If you already have the contact details of the people you want to survey, then you can use a free tool like Google Forms to mock up a quick questionnaire.
This intuitive tool makes it easy to share your survey as a link. You can also give respondents the opportunity of remaining anonymous.
If you don’t have a pool of people to contact then you can use a survey tool like SurveyMonkey to create your survey and push it out to the right demographics. You can drill down on things like age, income, gender, and more to ensure you collect market research data from people who fit your ideal target audience. However, this isn’t free and the cost will vary depending on how many respondents you want to contact and how specific your parameters are.
In addition to surveys, you can also gather market research from focus groups, field trials and consumer observation.
8. Poor management
Whether it’s an inexperienced project manager or there’s no clear leader at all, poor management can drive projects directly off a cliff.
It can be easy to think that as long as everyone knows their roles there doesn’t need to be a sole project manager, but without a strong manager who has a handle on where the project needs to go, it can be difficult to keep moving forward and maintain a unified vision.
Assign a manager! You could also assign several managers – one for each step in the process. This is especially useful if you’re working on a long-term project that involves multiple teams .
However, if you do have several managers in place there should also be one clear overall project manager who has final say. This person should have contact with everyone involved in the project so they can understand where the project is up to, what the next steps are, and what constitutes success at each stage.
9. Lack of risk management
Speaking of management, a lack of managing risks can also cause a whole host of issues that could lead to project failure.
According to teamstage.io , risk management is the second most critical process for project success .
And it makes sense. After all, no project runs perfectly so it’s important to assess potential risks and have a plan to manage them as and when they arise.
Creating a risk management plan can put you in a good position should things go wrong. This can help you ensure that you avoid risks and complete your project in time and on budget.
A risk management plan typically covers 5 steps:
- 1. Risk identification (identifying potential risks)
- 2. Risk assessment (assessing the risks and potential damage they could create)
- 3. Risk analysis (giving each risk a rating, from low to high)
- 4. Risk treatment (evaluating how each risk should be dealt with)
- 5. Risk mitigation (putting systems in place to avoid the identified risks)
This article from Reciprocity is a great place to start.
10. Lack of updates
If you’re working on a project that spans several weeks and/or several teams then it’s important to share regular updates to ensure the project stays on track. A lack of updates goes hand in hand with poor communication, which is a big reason why projects fail.
It’s a known fact that most people would rather not have meetings. According to our Communication Statistics 2022 report , two thirds of people feel they often waste time in meetings.
But, without meetings, projects can easily go off-track, fall behind, or head in the wrong direction. To fix this problem it’s a case of having smarter meetings .
Set up regular meetings with everyone involved in order to discuss the progress of the project. These could be daily stand ups that are limited to just 10 minutes, to ensure that no unnecessary time is wasted and everyone can get a quick update on the project.
If you’re working remotely then video calls can work in lieu of stand ups – you can also limit these to weekly meetings (if you feel like daily meetings are too frequent for your project).
It’s easy to set up a recurring meeting with Google Meet. All you need to do is add a meeting to your calendar as normal (selecting video conferencing, if appropriate).
Then click on the ‘Doesn’t repeat’ text below the time. As you can see, a dropdown will appear and you can select a time period for your meeting to regularly repeat.
11. Overallocated resources
When you don’t have enough people, time, or other resources to work on your project then the likelihood is that your project will fail. It’s as simple as that.
Resources can often be overlooked when it comes to planning projects. It’s easy to get bogged down in the deadline and the budget, but it’s equally important to evaluate your resources and make sure you have everything you need to complete your project successfully.
Overallocated resources tend to happen when teams are juggling multiple projects at once or if scope creep begins to alter the expectations of the project.
The best way to avoid this is to make resource planning a big part of your initial kickoff meeting . Discuss exactly what’s needed in order to complete the project in-time and on-budget, and make sure that you have everything in place before you get started.
It’s also important to discuss resource planning during your regular updates to ensure everything is still going as expected and resources aren’t strained.
12. Unrealistic expectations
A big reason why a lot of projects fall short of the mark is because stakeholders had unrealistic expectations either about how much the project would cost, how long it would take, or what the outcome would be.
There’s a simple solution to this: manage expectations from the outset with clear goals and objectives.
It can also help to make this tangible by creating a project plan (as explained above in our very first point!)
5 Famous project failures (& what you can learn from them)
1. airbus a380.
You may have already heard of the Airbus A380. It’s the world’s largest passenger airliner, and the only one to feature a full-length upper deck. However, the airliner’s creation and release were plagued with difficulties that made it uncertain whether the plane would ever fly at all.
The main issues came from the dispersed teams that were working on the project. Teams were spread out between Germany, France, Spain, and the UK. And when components of the plane were brought together it was discovered that the teams in Germany and Spain were using different CAD programmes to those in Britain and France, and so the parts were not compatible.
It’s difficult to know just how much it cost to develop the Airbus A380, but it’s clear that the project went way over budget. In 2000, the initial projected development cost was $11.3 billion, and in 2006 the company decided to stop publishing their projected costs as production issues had already caused the figure to reach $12.2 billion.
A decade later, Airbus re-estimated the cost and stated it to be somewhere in the region of $25 – $30 billion, so easily over double their initial projections.
What we can learn:
Dispersed teams can work. We know this from the shift to remote working caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. But in order for remote teams to be able to work together successfully, especially if they are in different time zones, communication has to be of the highest priority.
Regular communication using agreed-upon tools is the best way to avoid problems like this. It’s important to make sure communication is open and honest too, so that you can work together to fix issues before they lead to delays and ultimately project failure.
2. Knight Capital
Knight Capital was an American global financial services firm that, in August 2012, lost $460m in just 45 minutes and created a major stock market disruption (resulting in an additional $12 million fine).
How does something this catastrophic happen?
Well, Knight Capital engineers were given just one month to make changes to their software so that it would work within a new trading environment. The pressure the engineers were under is what caused one of them to accidentally put a test programme live that bought high and sold low.
The test programme, behaving as though there was no risk involved, executed over 4 million trades in 154 stocks in the short time it was running, resulting in financial damages that the company was unable to recover from.
This seems like a pretty straight-forward case of an unrealistic deadline. It’s important to give your teams the time they need to work on your project in order to ensure success.
Also, be sure to create a safe environment where teams feel free to communicate any time pressure to you so that it can be resolved.
3. The Garden Bridge
The Garden Bridge was intended to be a pedestrian bridge over the River Thames in London. There are many beautiful computer-generated images of the proposed bridge, like the one above.
Funding was collected, a very expensive (£161,000) website was created, and preparatory work was undertaken, but actual construction never began on the project.
The project was over-optimistic in many ways but the main issue was funding. It was determined that the bridge was a risk to public funds and lacked value for money. The project was officially closed down in 2017 and cost £53 million (£43 million of which was public money).
It’s great to want to shoot for the stars, but expectations need to be realistic especially before money is spent.
This is where diligent planning can really help to guide projects in the right direction and ensure projects are feasible before time or money is wasted.
4. Ford Edsel
Ford promised consumers that the Edsel would be the “car of the future” but when it finally made it to market, 3 years after the company had collected the polling data used to inform the production, people had moved on.
The Ford Edsel was seen as ugly, overpriced, and overhyped, and as a result consumers preferred purchasing other Ford models. The company stopped making the Edsel just 2 years after its launch, and the failed project was an expensive lesson, costing $250 million.
This one’s simple: strike while the iron is hot. It’s great that Ford conducted market research to inform their project, but by taking too long to release the car their information became outdated.
It’s important to push your product out to consumers when there’s demand. If you know your project is going to take time then continuously conduct market research to ensure you’re still heading in the right direction.
5. Denver International Airport
When Denver International Airport was under construction it announced an exciting automated system for handling luggage. The fully automated baggage system was to be the first of its kind to reduce the airports reliance on manual labour and hopefully result in a faster service for travellers.
However, the project was more complex than anticipated. And, as a result it went 16 months past the deadline and cost the city $560 million.
There were many reasons for the failure but one of the biggest was scope creep. Key stakeholders were excluded from initial decision-making meetings and so when they were asked for feedback they had huge changes and it was difficult to implement these essential changes (such as adding ski equipment racks and different handling for oversized luggage) retrospectively.
First, involve all key stakeholders from the word go. A kickoff meeting with everyone in the same room (or connected virtually) can really set your project off on the right foot.
In addition to that, the scope of your project should be determined upfront and, to avoid failure, this should be stuck to for the duration.
Sadly, project failure is common. But with the tips and tricks in this article, hopefully you can manage your project successfully to avoid these common mistakes.
A great place to start is with an all-in-one project management tool like Project.co. With Project.co you can bring everything you need for your project – your tools, your team, your clients – together in one place. And you can get started for free!
It only takes 45 seconds to create an account, then…
Invite your team
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All your proejcts & information in 1 place
Kick the tyres & upgrade when you’re ready
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Why Business Intelligence Projects Fail?
- Business Intelligence
- January 31, 2022
BY: Troy Monterey
Helping & empowering business owners for over 15 years, helping them to understand how to protect own interests, build bridges to amplify joint ventures, adapting new business practices and solutions.
Unrealistic expectations, poor project objectives, inadequate supervision and management (such as not having project management training) are some of the reasons for project failure.
Table of contents
- Why do data projects fail?
- Why do IT projects fail so often?
- What are the negative impacts of business intelligence?
- Why do analytics projects fail?
- What is Business Intelligence issues?
- What are the main reasons why large scale projects fail?
- What are the pros and cons of business intelligence?
- What is the impact of business intelligence?
- Why does business intelligence fail?
- What are the disadvantages of business analytics?
- What are some failed projects?
- What is the consequences of failed projects?
- Why do data science projects fail?
- How many big data projects fail?
- Why do data initiatives fail?
- Why most big data analytics projects fail?
- Why do projects fail?
- How often do projects fail?
- Why do so many big projects fail?
- why business intelligence projects fail?
- Why do so many Analytics projects fail?
- Could there be any possible negative impacts of business intelligence on decision making processes?
- What are the disadvantages of market intelligence?
- What is an example of a failed project?
- Why do data scientists fail?
Why Do Data Projects Fail?
Data science projects fail for a variety of reasons. Several factors contribute to this problem, with the top four being inadequate or siloed data, skills/resource shortages, poor transparency, and difficulty deploying and operating models.
Why Do It Projects Fail So Often?
Implementing an IT system can be difficult for a variety of reasons, including lack of planning and management participation, underestimating resources, and failing to manage user expectations, as well as insufficient testing.
What Are The Negative Impacts Of Business Intelligence?
A limited approach to business intelligence can lead to an overburdened IT department, decreased cross-functional productivity, a low morale among employees, and a decreased sense of trust.
Why Do Analytics Projects Fail?
The Gartner survey shows that “management resistance” and “internal politics” are major causes of project failures. A study published by the Harvard Business Review reported similar results: The greatest obstacles to successful adoption were “insufficient organizational alignment, lack of middle management adoption, and lack of understanding and commitment.
What Is Business Intelligence Issues?
With Business Intelligence, you are able to get the right information to the right person at the right time. It is a platform that enables reporting and analysis.
What Are The Main Reasons Why Large Scale Projects Fail?
- A lack of clarity or a shift in goals…
- I have a problem communicating.
- It was not planned properly.
- A failure to manage risks….
- Following up wasn’t done.
- There are too many tools or the tools are not suitable.
- Issues related to context and timing.
What Are The Pros And Cons Of Business Intelligence?
- Wherever you are, you’ll be able to get information.
- It’s accessible to the public so that they can interact with the data.
- Managing big data gets easier when you can manage it in real time…
- In many cases, it’s free to scale.
- KPIs can be tracked more easily…
- A data visualization tool makes it easier to visualize data.
What Is The Impact Of Business Intelligence?
The use of business intelligence (BI) systems can help firms reduce risks and improve profitability. As a general rule, businesses with BI systems analyze economic and market trends as well as internal operational data like process efficiencies and productivity on a daily basis.
Why Does Business Intelligence Fail?
There is a high failure rate associated with BI projects because poor estimation of risks and lack of communication contribute to it. In organizations, Business Intelligence (BI) is not yet fully understood and used.
What Are The Disadvantages Of Business Analytics?
- A data analysis system poses the risk of leaks as one of the most pressing concerns.
- It’s expensive to purchase business intelligence software.
- Different types of data sources have difficulty being analyzed….
- There is a poor quality of data.
- Getting in the way of adoption.
What Are Some Failed Projects?
- A crystal Pepsi is a delicious beverage…
- The Arch Deluxe Burger is the McDonald’s specialty….
- Lisa was Apple’s first product.
- A pair of Levi’s type 1 jeans…
- The IBM PC Junior…
- DMC-12, the DeLorean time machine.
What Is The Consequences Of Failed Projects?
According to the study, failure of a project causes the state to lose revenues; project cost overruns result in citizens losing revenue; substandard infrastructure results in low community empowerment.
Why Do Data Science Projects Fail?
Data science projects fail more than 85% of the time, according to Gartner analyst Nick Heudecker. Several factors contribute to this problem, with the top four being inadequate or siloed data, skills/resource shortages, poor transparency, and difficulty deploying and operating models.
How Many Big Data Projects Fail?
In 2017 85% of big data projects failed. 87% of data science projects never reached production. “Through 2022, only 20% of analytic insights will lead to business benefits” (Gartner, 2019).
Why Do Data Initiatives Fail?
Often, the people involved in data governance initiatives do not have a clear understanding of their role and responsibilities, which is one reason the initiatives fail. Implementing changes becomes more difficult and leads to a number of quality issues not being addressed.
Why Most Big Data Analytics Projects Fail?
Gartner’s survey found that management resistance and internal politics were the two most common reasons for analytics projects going south. As reported in The Harvard Business Review study, “insufficient organizational alignment, a weak middle management, and a lack of leaders can stymie successful business adoptions.
Why Do Projects Fail?
The failure may be controllable in some cases. A common theme in failed projects and their participants is the involvement of people. In general, projects fail because they are not focused on seven factors that contribute to project success: Focus on business value instead of technical details.
How Often Do Projects Fail?
Approximately 14 percent of IT projects fail, according to a 2017 report by the Project Management Institute (PMI). This number is only an indication of how many failures were reported. A quarter of the projects that did not fail outright were late, 43 percent exceeded their budgets, and 31 percent did not meet their goals.
Why Do So Many Big Projects Fail?
Poor evaluation results in more failures than poor implementation for big projects. Because of this, they fail to identify projects that can be delayed, overbudget, miss market opportunities, or cause irreparable damage to the company.
BI projects can fail for many reasons, but the most common one is lack of communication, time to value issues, and data issues. You may be able to solve these problems by hiring a project manager who has experience in business intelligence. Scheduling delays can be avoided by avoiding data quality issues and slowdowns.
Why Do So Many Analytics Projects Fail?
Almost half of all analytics projects fail due to missing budgets or schedules, failing to deliver the features or benefits that were optimistically expected at the outset, or due to failure to complete the projects on time. There is no such thing as a product or computer system like big data analytics.
Could There Be Any Possible Negative Impacts Of Business Intelligence On Decision Making Processes?
Breaches of sensitive information If you use business intelligence applications to manage sensitive information, an error in the process could expose it, putting your business, customers, or employees at risk. The biggest challenge for business intelligence was identified by more than 30% of surveyed companies as security.
What Are The Disadvantages Of Market Intelligence?
- To make a good model, you need a lot of data.
- It Is Still Uncertain If Predictions and Analysis Are Reliable.
- The goal of replacing humans 100% is really difficult…
- You have a complicated and disconnected marketing stack.
- There Isn’t Enough Human in Artificial Intelligence.
- Unrealistic expectations are held by some regarding AI’s potential.
What Is An Example Of A Failed Project?
Betamax is a Sony product. Midway through the 1970s, Sony introduced the Betamax, a tape recording device. While JVC’s VHS technology won the battle for market share, Sony continued to make Betamax tapes until 2016, a long time after the technology was no longer relevant to most of us, many of whom had no idea it was still being produced.
It is possible for a project to fail for many reasons. It is most often due to a change in organizational priorities. It is also not uncommon for project objectives to change, nor for communication issues to emerge or for risk definitions to be unclear. Keep your projects on track by using Kissflow Project.
Why Do Data Scientists Fail?
A data scientist lost focus and tried to model like an academic for too long. Insufficient communication of findings between the data scientist and appropriate people caused the project to fail. In his pursuit of the wrong metric, the data scientist made a mistake. A data scientist was not equipped to solve the problem with the right skills or tools.
Watch Why Business Intelligence Projects Fail Video
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- Why projects fail: 7 reasons (and their ...
Why projects fail: 7 reasons (and their solutions)
Project failure happens, but it’s often avoidable. While a 100% success rate isn’t realistic (or even ideal), it’s important to be aware of common project pitfalls in order to give your work the best chance of success. In this article we describe seven common reasons why projects fail, and how to prevent them—plus some useful tools to keep you on track.
What is a project failure?
A project could be considered a failure for the following reasons:
The project didn’t meet your objectives.
You didn’t get the deliverable you wanted.
Work wasn’t completed on time.
Failure is subjective, however. Oftentimes, “failed” projects still achieve significant results, even if you missed a deadline or didn’t hit a deliverable. And while failure never feels good, it often comes hand-in-hand with setting challenging goals.
For example, here at Asana we believe that if you succeed 100% of the time, you likely weren’t ambitious enough in your planning. That said, it’s important to make sure projects fail for the right reasons—like setting a stretch goal to inspire forward momentum—rather than due to an avoidable pitfall.
7 common causes of project failure (and their solutions)
Thankfully, these common problems are solvable—so with some advance planning, you can stop failure in its tracks.
1. Unclear objectives
Problem: Your team isn’t aligned on project goals, and there’s no way to measure success.
Project objectives are the things you plan to achieve by the end of your project. They should be specific, time-bound goals you can measure when your project is finished. Without clear objectives, it’s hard to keep your team aligned or even know if your project was a success or a failure.
For example, imagine your team is designing a new checkout page for your mobile app. Without a clear objective (such as “reduce average checkout time for end users by 30% in Q2"), it’s hard to know which new features will make the page a success. And after the project is over, you’ll be hard-pressed to measure performance without a concrete goal to compare with.
Unclear objectives are a common problem. The 2021 Anatomy of Work Index , which surveyed over 10,000 knowledge workers, found that less than half of all employees understood how their day-to-day work contributed to broader goals.
Solution: Set clear objectives as part of your planning process.
Effective project objectives align your team and provide a benchmark to measure success. Set objectives before you begin and they can guide your project—even better, involve your team in the goal-setting process, and you can ensure everyone is aligned from the start.
It’s a good idea to set objectives as part of your overall project plan , which also lays out project stakeholders, deliverables, timeline, and more.
2. Scope creep
Problem : Your project deliverables change as work progresses.
Scope creep is hard to spot because it often comes on slowly—you could even say it creeps up on you . It’s what happens when project deliverables exceed the project scope, and you end up with more work than you bargained for.
For example, imagine you planned to publish 10 blog articles this month as part of a new product launch. However, you got a request from a stakeholder to add two additional posts to support a different product. With that new ask, your resources are stretched thin and you need to delay publishing deadlines across the board.
Scope creep is a major driver of missed deadlines and failed projects. In fact, respondents in a 2021 Project Management Institute survey reported that 34% of projects in their organization experienced scope creep in the past year.
Solution : Define—and circulate—your project scope before you begin.
When you define scope in advance, it’s easier to deliver results on time and within budget. You can plan resourcing ahead of time, and make sure last-minute asks don’t overwhelm your team. A documented project scope is also a good tool to push back on extra requests from stakeholders. In the example above, that means sticking to your original 10 blog posts and delivering your project on time.
You can document your project scope with a scope statement. This can be part of your project plan, or even its own standalone document. Once you create your scope statement, make sure to share it with your stakeholders. When they have a clear understanding of what is and isn’t included in your project, they’ll be less likely to tack on additional asks. And when you do get an extra request, you can use a change control process to determine if it’s important enough to add to your project scope.
3. Unrealistic expectations
Problem : Success isn’t attainable.
Inspiring goals can help spur forward momentum, but they should still be attainable. If your project objectives are too ambitious, stressed teammates and missed deadlines can easily ensue.
For example, imagine your sales team has a stretch goal of 100 commissions this month. But two team members are on PTO, so the rest of the team will need to work overtime to achieve the goal. That means there aren’t enough resources to achieve the objective, and success is likely out of reach.
Overly ambitious objectives can be kryptonite for project timelines. According to the 2021 Anatomy of Work Index , the most common cause of missed deadlines is unrealistic expectations.
Solution : Set SMART project objectives.
With some advance planning, you can still set inspiring objectives that don’t require extra hours on the clock. To create ambitious (but achievable) goals, make sure they’re SMART: specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-bound. The SMART goals methodology makes it clear what success looks like, while also providing a clear project roadmap and finish line for your project. If you make sure your objectives are attainable and within your project scope, you can mitigate project risk and set your team up for success.
4. Limited resources
Problem : You don’t have the resources you need to get the job done.
Resources are anything you need to complete a project—like budget, staff, time, space, or tools. A lack of resources can delay a project or even stop it in its tracks.
For example, imagine you’re working on an ad campaign for a new product. The deadline is approaching, but your budget for freelance video editing has run dry. With only one in-house editor to help, you need to delay the campaign’s launch. In this case, you’ve run out of both the budget and manpower you need to deliver work on time.
Solution : Make a resource management plan in advance.
Sometimes unplanned events like budget cuts are hard to predict. But often with a bit of planning, you can ensure your team has what they need to tackle project goals. A resource management plan lays out the amount and type of resources you need for your project—so you know exactly what’s required before you get started. Then, use resource allocation best practices to identify exactly when each resource should be allocated to each project. For example, this can include employee bandwidth, budget, tech equipment, or even a workspace.
5. Poor communication
Problem : Team members don’t understand how and when to communicate updates.
Nowadays, communication is more complex than ever. According to the 2021 Anatomy of Work Index , on average people switch between 10 apps 25 times per day to do their work, and 27% of workers say that actions and messages are missed when switching apps.
With today’s app overload, it’s hard to know when and where you should surface important project updates . That means work may be at risk if project team members aren’t aligned on what communication channels to use, when to use them, or who should communicate what.
For example, imagine you lead a remote team spread across North America and Europe. You rely on a mix of communication tools to get things done, including email, message, video conferencing, and shared docs. But your team doesn’t have documentation about when to use each channel—so team members often share important updates in channels that only some people see. As a result, you’re missing important details and work is often duplicated.
Solution : Create—and share—a communication plan.
A clear communication plan lays out how you’ll pass along important, ongoing project info. It gives your team clarity on which tools to use for what, lays out how frequently updates will be shared (and who should share them), and identifies when to loop in key stakeholders. With a solid communication plan, you can spend less time chasing info and more time tackling your project objectives.
A communication plan typically includes the frequency, channel, audience, and owner for each type of communication you’ll be using. For example, you might include these details for weekly project status updates:
Communication type: project status updates
Audience: project team
Owner: project manager
6. Scheduling delays
Problem : Missed deadlines cause rushed work and significant project delays.
A missed deadline here, a delayed meeting there—this may seem inconsequential in the moment, but can ultimately snowball into rushed work, stressed teammates, and significant project delays.
For example, picture this: you’re planning a museum exhibit, and your logistics meeting with the exhibit venue has been pushed back a few times. Now there’s two weeks until the grand opening, and your team will need to speed through the planning process in order to be ready on time—or you may even need to delay the event. Scheduling delays like this are increasingly common, with 26% of deadlines missed each week according to the 2021 Anatomy of Work Index .
Solution : Include a project schedule as part of your project plan.
Remember the ever-useful project plan we mentioned earlier? This typically includes a detailed project schedule. A project schedule lays out each step you need to complete, who’s responsible for that work, and when each task is due.
An effective project schedule gives your team clarity on how pieces connect together. That way, you can easily identify which key milestones are dependent on others—so you can work backward from due dates to ensure there’s enough time to complete each step. You can also include your team in the scheduling process to account for everyone’s timeline and responsibilities.
7. Lack of transparency
Problem : Team members can’t find important project documentation.
So you’ve crafted a killer project plan complete with a project schedule, communication plan, resource management plan, and SMART objectives. Now what?
If those documents are static and not easily accessible to your team, it can be hard to communicate updates without time-consuming status meetings. And even so, information might get lost in the mix.
Solution : Use a work management tool to house project info in one place.
Work management helps you organize workflows and set up processes so your team can collaborate long-term. The right work management tool can act as a single source of truth for project information, documentation, and status. We’re (obviously) partial to Asana, because it gives teams a living system where everyone can view and manage work and team priorities in a way that works best for them. But regardless of the tool you use, project management software allows your team to access the information they need and stay up-to-date with the latest project updates. That means you can ditch Excel trackers that quickly become outdated, and make sure your project team has real-time information whenever they need it.
Make your projects fail-proof
Now that you’re aware of these common reasons for project failure, here are some tools to set your projects up for success:
A project charter to pitch your project to stakeholders.
A project plan to keep work on track. This includes:
Goals and project objectives
Stakeholders and roles
Scope and budget
Milestones and deliverables
Timeline and schedule
A resource management plan to manage your team’s workload.
A risk register to identify potential setbacks.
A project kickoff meeting to align on key details and gain stakeholder buy-in.
A project management tool to coordinate it all.
The road to project success
You’ve probably picked up on a theme here—when it comes to risk management and avoiding project failure, advance planning is key. By empowering your team to plan strategically and account for all your project’s moving pieces, you can set a track record of success and crush key objectives. So here’s to planning ahead, and many successful projects to come.
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Why Do So Many Corporate Projects Fail?
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If you’re among the whopping 2.5 percent of companies that successfully complete every project they start, congratulations! If you’re not, then you’ve probably wondered, at one time or another, where things are going wrong.
Though it’s little comfort, that stat—from a PricewaterhouseCoopers study—shows you’re not alone. PwC reviewed 10,640 projects from 200 companies in 30 countries and ultimately found that the vast majority of corporate projects fail.
It seems that IT projects tend to suffer the most , with 43% having experienced a recent project failure, but the effects of poor project management are felt throughout virtually every industry. Harvard Business Review reports that one in six projects has an average cost overrun of 200% and an average schedule overrun of nearly 70% .
With numbers like that, it shouldn’t be surprising that project and program management consulting is among the top three requests we get at Business Talent Group. Let’s take a look at which pitfalls our clients are trying to avoid—and what a freelance project management consultant brings to the table.
Breaking down the breakdown
Though the specific reasons for project failure vary greatly, they generally fall into three categories:
1. Inadequate planning
The problem : One of the biggest missteps in project planning is failing to clearly define the project goals. When opportunities and risks are fuzzy, so is the roadmap for success. Ill-defined goals also make it difficult to accurately estimate project costs, resources, and timeline — leading to overruns.
In defining project goals, it’s critical to get buy-in from all involved stakeholders and then maintain momentum by communicating responsibilities to team members and following up regularly. Early engagement and accountability help improve the accuracy of initial estimates and overall alignment.
Unfortunately, these steps are often missed due to lack of proper training. This is particularly common at companies where subject matter experts (SMEs) are de facto project managers. Many times, SMEs lack the formal project management skills to clearly define project goals, effectively delegate responsibilities, or develop a reliable method of accountability.
How freelancers can help : An independent project management consultant can not only help facilitate strategic planning at the project or portfolio level; they can also help develop a training program to strengthen your team’s project and change management skills and improve the value of your internal resources.
The problem : This is probably the most overlooked cause of failure, primarily because it manifests as an inability to handle common issues, such as scope change, timeline adjustments, resource scarcity, communication breakdown, inaccurate business requirements, etc.
Of the seven project performance factors that the Project Management Institute identifies as critical to project success, five directly influence flexibility:
- Focus on business value, not technical detail . A big-picture perspective makes it easier to accommodate revised objectives.
- Have consistent processes for managing unambiguous checkpoints . Project tracking prepares teams for potential roadblocks and opportunities.
- Have a consistent methodology for planning and executing projects . A strong project framework promotes greater efficiency.
- Manage and motivate people so that project efforts will experience a zone of optimal performance throughout its life . Effective delegation frees the PM to focus on strategic tasks.
- Provide project team members with the tools and techniques they need to produce consistently successful projects . Empowered teams are resilient teams, ready to handle sudden changes.
Though two of these focus on process and methodology, it’s worth pointing out that they’re only two of seven project performance factors. When companies rely on process and procedure to manage the bulk of the work, everything has to go exactly as planned in order for the project to succeed. There’s no room for flexibility if the organization’s priorities or project objectives change (two of the most common reasons for project failure).
This is why two of the other factors focus specifically on people: Having a motivated, well-supported team allows for flexibility within a defined framework. You need both the process and the people to achieve success.
How freelancers can help : When resources are tight or project management skills lacking, a freelance project leadership consultant can provide additional support. They can help develop an appropriate project framework, define key checkpoints and create a communications plan for keeping everyone connected.
3. Insufficient resources
The problem : Many projects are doomed from day one because there simply aren’t enough of the necessary resources available to support them. In a survey by PM Solutions Research , PMOs identified two of their top challenges as:
- A lack of time to dedicate to strategy (45 percent)
- Inadequate resource management capability (43 percent)
When a PMO doesn’t have enough time for strategy work, they’re either juggling too many projects or have too few resources at their disposal — or, most likely, both. If a project manager can’t marshal adequate resources on their own, stakeholder support is imperative.
According to PMI’s Pulse research , 55% of project managers agree that effective communications with stakeholders is the most critical success factor in project management. As the project’s advocates within the organization, the project owner and project champion are its most valuable resources.
That’s why it’s essential for the PM to maintain contact with stakeholders throughout the project, providing regular updates on roadmaps, milestones, obstacles, and resource needs. This ensures issues are addressed proactively and with enough context to substantiate the need for additional support.
How freelancers can help : Designing and implementing a strategic communication plan can be a project in and of itself, one well-suited to the expertise of an experienced freelance program management consultant . By tailoring the plan to the project’s team and stakeholders, a freelance PM consultant can help improve plan adoption and overall effectiveness.
Guiding your next project to success
There’s no excuse for poor planning, inflexibility, or insufficient resources. These are issues that exist at the outset, and there are two paths to addressing them: stop before you start, or hire a freelance PM consultant to help address them.
When a company doesn’t have the necessary bandwidth or skill sets internally, an independent project management consultant can help bridge the gap. Our freelance consultants are experts in their fields and have served 37 percent of the Fortune 100 on significant projects, including:
- Strategic project planning
- Project portfolio management
- Project assessment and business case analysis
- Enterprise risk management
- Communication strategy
- International retail strategy
- Vendor selection process development
- Global supply chain optimization
- Leadership development
See how BTG talent have collaborated with internal teams to guide their projects to success . Or tell us how we can best support you on your next project.
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About the Author Emily is an award-winning writer who specializes in B2B marketing. She has been helping global brands reach targeted audiences to drive sales and awareness for more than 15 years. As a small business owner herself (skeletonkeybrewery.com), she understands what it's like to source a team that can scale with sudden growth. More Content by Emily Slayton
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Project Failure | 7 Reasons Why Projects Fail & How to Avoid It
Project failure is an all-too-common occurrence in the business world. Even the so-called big brands with their “world-class” project managers and project teams, and large project budgets have their fair share of big project failures that make the headlines.
You may have experienced your fair share of project failings. Imagine starting on a project you like, taking out time to carry out the research and draw out the project plan, project estimates, and work breakdown structure (WBS). You even assemble a good project team.
All of a sudden, during one of the phases of the project management life cycle , things begin to fall apart. Perhaps you missed a deadline or the project deliverables do not match up with the expectations. What you are left with is a failed project.
Why do so many promising projects end up as failures? In this article, you will learn about why some projects fail and what you can do to lower the risk of a project failure.
When is a Project Considered a Failure?
Every project starts with a lot of plans, ideas, excitement, and hopes. However, without proper planning, execution, and a strong communication line within the channels of project management, a project can woefully fail
Multinational companies such as Apple and Ford have big project failures such as Apple Lisa and The Ford Edsel. These project failures by the big companies serve as case studies for start-ups or developing companies who do not want to repeat such mistakes.
1. Failure to Deliver at the Project’s Estimated Delivery Time
A project is considered a failure when the project plan is not delivered within the speculated time and fails to achieve its purpose.
Every project has an estimated time frame where specific tasks have to be done. When the project execution and project schedule stop meeting the set deadlines, the project is already on a fast route to eventual failure. `
Changes in project objectives tend to mess up the time frame of the project. When many changes start to occur, the estimated time for the project tends not to accommodate those changes.
Timing matters a lot in project management. It determines if the project will succeed or not . When the project extends beyond the anticipated delivery date, the project team starts to feel unmotivated and this will eventually affect the energy at which the tasks are being carried out.
2. Exceeding the Project’s Budget
One of the best practices for delivering a project successfully is to judiciously manage the resources allocated to the project. This is why it is very important to estimate the cost, set the budget, and know if you can get contingency funding in case you run into unexpected financial problems.
Managing expectations, monitoring how money is spent, and evaluating the importance of each purchase to the project is crucial. When the project starts running out of funds or resources without an effective ‘Plan B’ on how to get more funds and no further cash inflow, then the project can be considered a failure.
Top Reasons Why Projects Fail (and How to Prevent It)
1. unclear project goals and objectives.
In every project, project managers have to define and map out the goals and objectives of the project. These project goals and objectives must be communicated in clear and simple terms for the project team. With this, they can know exactly what they are working towards and they will not step out from the range of the objectives.
Gathering the right information about the project also gives the project manager and the team the right equipment to meet up their target and project objectives.
Knowing the purpose of the project boosts the project plans and brings about the achievement of project milestones. In situations where project goals and objectives are unclear, the project manager will find it difficult to clearly interpret and properly distribute tasks to team members.
When the project, goals, objective, and vision are unclear, the project team may have a different interpretation of what the project is all about. This will lead to confusion and eventually result in situations where the project expectations are not met and the project becomes an abandoned work.
Employees who do not understand what is expected of them can not perform their best or give their best when they do not know what their best should be.
An example of this is when an employee is taken to another department without a proper understanding of what the work or project schedule of the new department is. Such an employee will not function well and everything done there will look strange and unclear.
How to Prevent It
- Make the Project Goals and Objectives Clear. When teams can understand and have a clear view of the project, they make more active progress on the project.
- Use Project Charter. A project charter describes the project objectives, scope, and responsibilities of the depth of the blueprint of the key components of the project. This document communicates project goals and objectives to your project team.
- Use Work Breakdown Structure (WBS). A work breakdown structure (WBS) is a common productivity technique that breaks a project into smaller manageable tasks. This makes the project more clear to the team.
2. Weak Resource Planning
When the project starts without proper planning it is already bound to fail, especially when there is weak resource planning.
The foundation step needed to deliver a project successfully involves planning every sector of that project down to the very bits. One of the important plans is for the resources, this is not only in terms of financial resources but also important is the human resources.
At the beginning of the project when there are abundant resources, there is a need to have a resource manager who will help the project manager in managing human resources, planning, and staff allocation. There is also a need for financial planners, who will help construct financial plans and give estimates of the total cost.
A work breakdown structure (WBS) is needed to break down the project into smaller units such as work packages. This helps to organize the team’s work into manageable sections. Such a breakdown will give project managers well-detailed project estimates and project expectations.
- Create a Resource Plan: When resources for a project are made available at the initiation of the project, the project will stand a higher chance of avoiding project failure. There should be a resource plan on how it will be spent and managed. Also, use resource management software to easily track and manage resources efficiently.
3. Low Project Visibility
This simply means the project's status and project milestones are not being achieved. Low project visibility can happen when deadlines are not being met and there is a weak link in the communication. It can also occur when the tasks are not being tracked and when employees do not have access to the right equipment and information to get the job done.
Planning the project is dependent on having proper visibility of the objectives. This allows for a well-detailed risk assessment, which can prevent future threats.
- Use Project Milestones. Whether a major or minor milestone, make sure to track the progress of the team. Milestones track the progress of the team and create visibility of the project.
4. Intransparent and Ineffective Communication
Communication is one of the strongholds of delivering a project. This is why collaboration software is a very important tool in project management.
Intransparent and ineffective communication simply mean failure in the process of communication. This can happen when there is a poor workplace culture, where the employees are not given the freedom to voice their opinions. When the working conditions are not comfortable, this can affect the productivity of the project.
Poor management skills on the side of the project managers can contribute to ineffective communication with the project team.
- Clear Channel of Communication. Communication is very key in any project. To prevent the failure of the project, project administrators must make sure there is a clear channel of communication between them and their teams. This might be through project management software like Monday.com, ClickUp, and Wrike. When there is a proper line of communication, project objectives are easily achieved.
5. Unclear Project Accountability
Accountability is very important in project management, it helps you to quickly figure out what the problem is and where the problem started from.
To achieve accountability in a project, tasks have to be assigned directly to each team member. However, responsibility is not the same thing as accountability.
A project manager is responsible for the project and is accountable to the key project stakeholders. When there is a setback on the project, the project manager is the one held accountable by the key project stakeholders.
Lack of accountability can make a hardworking team member relent when praises are not given when milestones are achieved. This prevents the ability to track the progress and performance of the project.
- Deploy Accountability Measures. Project managers should ensure that employees know what they are responsible for.
6. Scope Creep
Scope creep is the continuous changes and uncontrolled growth in project objectives and project plans after the project has started . When there is a continuous change in project scope, it becomes hard to track progress and the expectations of the project continue to change.
Continuous change in project scope can cause the goals and objectives of the project to be unclear and produce low project visibility. Over time if this continues to happen, it can result in overtime in projects where the project estimated time becomes unrealistic and budgets exceeded which leads to the failure of the project.
Continuous changes to tasks with unrealistic deadlines and timeframes will make team members produce low-quality and substandard projects.
- Make Project Changes Minimal After Project Initiation. Project changes should be brought to a controllable rate or minimum level. When this is done, it makes sure the team is not overwhelmed with the continuous changes. This also ensures the project does not extend out of its budget.
7. Unrealistic Expectations and Low Team Motivation
Unrealistic expectations can be caused by poor planning, poor communication skills, and poor vision of the project. This can lead to stress and frustration on the part of the team members and result in low team motivation.
When your project team finds your expectations unrealistic and unattainable, they will not put in their best since they know they can not meet the “unrealistic goal” that has been set. Without a proper project. T he success of every project depends on a motivated project team with a clear view of the goal working towards a “realistic expectation”.
- Set Realistic Goals. Planning and setting realistic goals will produce a motivated team that meets its target. This produces a better line of communication. To set realistic goals, well-detailed research has to be conducted to know the heights the projects can reach and their limits.
Project Management Tools to Reduce Risk of Project Failure
1. monday.com, best overall project management software tool .
Monday.com is one of the best agile project management software founded in 2014 and trusted by over 100,000 customers worldwide including Coca-Cola, Hulu, and Adobe.
- Multiple Visualizations: Use multiple flexible project views and customizable boards such as timeline, calendar, map, Gantt chart, and Kanban board view, enhancing the visualization of your data and workflow.
- Centralized Workspace: Users enjoy a centralized dashboard that allows them to easily plan, track, and access real-time data in a centralized workspace. You can easily share resources among your team members and make decisions based on these insights.
- Multiple Templates: Monday.com offers you hundreds of templates that you can use to create suitable project management frameworks for your needs.
- Integrations: Helping to streamline your workflow with over 40+ integrations to external platforms such as Salesforce, Shopify, Facebook, MailChimp, Google Calendar, and Microsoft Excel.
Simple Project Management Software that Offers Simplified Project Management Workflows and Spaces
ClickUp is one of the best simple project management software tools founded in 2017. This project management software is trusted by over 200,000 businesses and teams across the globe, including top companies such as IBM, Google, and Webflow.
- Multiple Views: ClickUp offers you 15 visualization options that you can use to visualize your projects within the software. They include lists, forms, maps, calendars, documents, timeline view, box view, line view, activity views, Gantt view, and Kanban boards.
- Time Tracker: Use ClickUp’s timestamp feature to effectively manage your time and track the time utilized by your project teams.
- Automatic Imports: Easily import your project history and workflows from other project management software such as Monday.com, Trello, and Asana, and other external applications such as Microsoft Excel.
- Templates: ClickUp offers you hundreds of easily customizable templates and workflows with which you can use to create your project management frameworks.
- Integration: Access to over 1,000 external tools such as cloud storage and file-sharing platforms such as Box, DropBox, and OneDrive.
Top-Rated Enterprise Project Management Software with Extended Customization Options
Wrike is one of the best enterprise project management software tools available in the market. This project management application is trusted by over 20,000 companies worldwide, including Dell, Lyft, and Siemens.
- Customizable Dashboards: Wrike provides you with customizable dashboards to create specific project management frameworks that are suitable for your specific needs. You can also create custom workflows and team-specific automation with Wrike’s customizable dashboard. Create project plans, schedule tasks, and visualize all your projects and assigned tasks from one centralized dashboard.
- Team Collaboration: Communicate real-time with your project team and key project stakeholders with Wrike’s live editing and built-in proofing tools.
- Project Visualization: Pick from a range of project visualization options and switch between them at your convenience. These project visualization options include drag and drop charts, workload views, Gantt charts, and Kanban boards
- Integrations: Wrike integrates with your everyday business and productivity tools such as CRM tools , communication systems, and sales and marketing tools. There are over 400+ pre-built native integrations available on the platform.
Ideal project management software for small businesses with highly actionable templates.
Teamwork is one of the best project management platforms for small businesses that are patronized by top brands such as HP, Spotify, Disney. PayPal, and Netflix.
- Easy Imports: Import your previous workflows and data easily and conveniently from other project management software such as ClickUp, Wrike, Trello, and Basecamp.
- Customizable Project Dashboard: Teamwork provides you with a customizable project dashboard that you can use to monitor the important details of your project. Get a quick overview of your project, progress made, and due completion dates from your project dashboard.
- Pre-Built Templates: Enjoy multiple templates for your project management needs such as client onboarding, accounting, project planning, reporting, and other dependencies.
- Time and Resource Management: Through Teamwork’s time and resource management options, you can easily track your work hours and that of your team members. You can also efficiently monitor how your project team is using up the resources allocated and share project resources among team members.
Appealing Online Project Management for Small to Medium Enterprises
Scoro is one of the best online project management software created in 2013 that helps businesses to streamline their projects and automate their billings.
- Real-Time KPI Dashboard: Soro equips with detailed real-time reports about your project’s cost, budget, sales, and progress on one central dashboard. You get real-time reports and reviews on your project’s KPIs for more efficient decision-making.
- Time Management Tools: Get rid of time wastage and low productivity with Scoro’s time management tools which include a built-in time tracker, calendar, and timesheets. Track your project team’s work hours.
- Resource Management Tools: Scoro provides you with resource management tools that you can use to allocate resources efficiently to your team members based on availability.
- Integrations: This online project management platform integrates over 1,000 external tools such as popular accounting software such as QuickBooks and Xero, customer support tools such as Zendesk and Freshdesk, marketing and sales tools such as MailChimp, Salesforce, HubSpot, and Pipedrive.
Web-based Project Management Software with Quality Expense Tracking Options
Celoxis is one of the best web-based project management software trusted by top companies such as LG, Tesla, Whirlpool, HBO, Rolex, KPMG, Adobe, Lufthansa, and Singapore Post.
- Project Tracking: Enjoy real-time visibility across all aspects of your projects from one centralized dashboard. Track the performance and work hours of your time according to the key performance indicators (KPIs) you set. You can also create custom fields, workflows, and project management reports .
- Team and Client Collaboration: Celoxis offers you a client portal through which you can share vital project files securely with your clients. The portal also facilitates discussion and comments between your clients and the project team.
- Advanced Auto Scheduling Modes: Manage your project schedules efficiently with Celoxis’ advanced auto-scheduling modes. You can use these modes to schedule time for different time zones and vacations and to even schedule resources.
- Financial Management Tools: Track your project finances with Celoxis’ real-time information on your project budget, costs, receivables, and profits.
Checklist to Lower Risk of Project Failure
1. effective planning.
Planning should be the foundation of any project and done at the project initiation phase of the project management life cycle . Project managers, project teams, and key project stakeholders should plan every outcome possible, bring in experts to examine plans, and have a well-detailed project scope and an efficient work breakdown structure.
What is a work breakdown structure (WBS)? This is a deliverable-oriented breakdown of a project into small units. A work breakdown structure (WBS) helps project managers to organize and manage every sector of the project.
Scope creep can be easily blended into the project with a work breakdown structure because it presents a clear view of the goals and objectives of the project to the project team.
Drawing up a project charter during this stage is very important because it points out key project deliverables in the project. The project charter is the blueprint of the whole project. It presents a clear picture of the project objectives and project plans to the whole team so everyone knows what to do to get and achieve the project goals.
2. Track Progress or Milestones
Project milestones are key to the success of any project. They show or act as proof or evidence of the hard work the team put into the project.
Tracking the progress of the project through project management software can also help the management to know where the shortcomings of the projects are. This can help with accountability in the team and a way to also recognize effective workers in the team.
By tracking the milestones of the project, project teams can be easily managed. Project managers can track project milestones to easily spot when the team is on the wrong side of the project or going out of the range of the project.
3. Set Realistic Expectations
Setting realistic project expectations is a no-brainer. This can be calculated by conducting extensive surveys to know the strengths and weaknesses of the project.
Conducting surveys can help you determine how far the project can go and limit stakeholders’ expectations so realistic expectations can be given to team members.
By setting realistic expectations, you will give your project team fewer “crazy” deadlines and sane workloads which will boost their morale and bring the best to the project.
4. Adequate Information and Equipment
With the right information which is gathered at every stage of the process available to your project team, they will know what is expected of them and what the project deliverable should look like.
Information is power in any industry, it boosts the progress of the project and makes the project team work more efficiently.
Coupled with adequate information, adding the right equipment such as project management software and work management tools is essential.
5. Proper Project Management
Proper management involves the decision-making process of the project. It includes identifying problems and proposing solutions to them.
A project must have an efficient project manager who manages all sectors of the project. This individual must have a clear understanding of the project. If the project manager who is supposed to distribute roles and assign tasks has no idea of the project, the project has already failed.
Poor project management affects key processes such as communication. When the communication is affected, the link between the team and the project will start to reduce. This will lead to low performance, reduced productivity, and the eventual failure of the project.
- 11 Project Management Principles for Successful Projects
- 10 Effective Tips on How to Manage A Project from Start to Finish
- What is Scope Creep in Projects and How to Avoid it
- What is Gold Plating in Project Management? Definition&Examples
- 10 Strategies For Successfully Managing Multiple Projects
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Anastasia has been a professional blogger and researcher since 2014. She loves to perform in-depth software reviews to help software buyers make informed decisions when choosing project management software, CRM tools, website builders, and everything around growing a startup business.
Anastasia worked in management consulting and tech startups, so she has lots of experience in helping professionals choosing the right business software.
What is a failed project? A project can be seen as a failure when it doesn't achieve its objectives. This doesn't just mean overall goals - a failed project could be something that went overbudget, over deadline or lost the support of its staff and stakeholders.
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1. Ford Edsel Ford Edsel is one of the most spectacular project failure examples in automotive history. Ford's team did extensive market research before it released the Edsel, even doing studies to make sure the car had the right 'personality' to attract the ideal customer.
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