What to Do When Your Project Is Bound to Fail?

Every project carries risk. These risks are unavoidable, and most project managers experience project failures at some point in their careers. But it’s important that you know these risks and failures can be avoided when you understand the pitfalls and take steps to mitigate them. If you have been experiencing these failures a lot lately, read this article till the end. We will walk you through the reasons why the project fails and what you can do to avoid these failures. Let’s get started.

Why do Projects Fail?

A project is considered a failure when you don’t get your desired results at the end when the project wasn’t completed on time, and when you couldn’t meet your objectives. Also, a project is considered a failure when you spend more than your budget for the project. Sometimes, a project fails because you can’t set the right objectives. When the objectives aren’t clear, or you set unachievable targets, a project is bound to fail. Fortunately, recovering your project is possible if you identify the problem at an early stage and take the proper steps to deal with them. Let’s check out the right steps you should take when you know the project isn’t on track.

Focus on Collaboration

The first instinct when you see a failing project is to blame others. What if the project failed because you didn’t communicate the goals properly? What if you misguided your team or set unrealistic expectations? Or what if it was your team’s mistake? Now is not the time to blame one another. You should rather focus on working together to ensure the damage is fixed as soon as possible.

Remember, project quality and delivery are your priorities for now. As soon as you know your team is straying from the project’s goals or is doing everything wrong, hold the project for a while. You should take some time to revisit the requirements, understand your goals, refine the processes, and change your procedures. If necessary, investigate the project from the start. Ask your team to stop for a while as you look into the project and understand the pitfalls.

Identify and Analyze the Root Cause of the Problem

There can be many reasons why the project doesn’t go as planned. Here are a few −

  • You have insufficient funds.

  • You have set unrealistic expectations.

  • You miscalculated the deadlines and set a duration for the tasks that were practically not possible to achieve. The management has refused to change the deadlines now.

  • You failed to delegate the roles and responsibilities to the right candidates.

  • Your team didn’t understand the core objective of the project.

  • You didn’t communicate the ideas and scope of the project to your team.

Sometimes, the client might increase the scope of the project, which requires additional tools and resources that can’t be sourced on short notice. A project manager who has PMP certification and is trained to handle such disasters knows how to diagnose the underlying cause of the problem and propose the best solution.

Conduct a Meeting

All the stakeholders, clients, employees, supervisors, and business associates involved in the project must be called for a meeting. That’s where you decide the next steps. Should you abandon the project, hold it for a while, or resume operations? Discuss the main cause of the project failure and invite your team to propose creative solutions that might help fix the crisis. If you can’t figure out a solution, use external help.

You can also ask someone from a different department (who’s not involved in the project) to share their insights on the failing project. However, nobody knows the cause of a project failure better than the people working on it and your stakeholders. That’s why keeping them involved in the project from the start is important. They must be informed about the project status, budget, timeline, workforce, and all tasks.

Decide if You Should Continue

You may have invested too many resources in the project to quit it now. But, throwing more money in the hope that the project might bring a positive outcome is pointless. It’s like a gambler borrowing loans continuously, hoping their situation may improve and they will be able to repay the debts.

If you can’t see any way to redeem the project or get your desired outcome, it’s better to drop it. Ask yourself if continuing the project will affect other areas of work or whether the project is still aligned with the broader business goals. If it’s a larger project, it might take you a few days to arrive at a decision.

Re-assign Duties and Boost Your Employee’s Morale

A failing project can’t be saved when you blame everything on employees. It will lower their self-esteem, which in turn, affects their productivity and the outcome of the project. If your team has decided to rework a project, your next step would be deciding who should be assigned what tasks and who should be responsible for putting the plan into action. Create a new project chart that describes the re-assigned roles.

You should also create a list of the tasks that must be finished within the assigned deadline. It’s normal for the team to lose productivity when a project fails. As a manager, you should take the responsibility of boosting their morale. You can use incentives to encourage your team to give their best or conduct regular meetings to evaluate each candidate’s performance. Appreciate them for their hard work, especially when they hit a milestone.

Conduct a Post-Mortem

Lastly, you should conduct a post-mortem. This is a post-project meeting where you discuss whether the project was completed and delivered as required. Even if your project didn’t perform as expected, a post-mortem should be conducted to avoid repeating the same mistakes in the future. You should document your success or failure, the reasons, everyone’s involvement, and everything about the project.

A project won’t fail when you understand the root causes of the problem. Conduct a meeting to analyze the causes of project failure and document all processes to avoid repeating the same mistakes.

Updated on: 18-Jan-2023


Kickstart Your Career

Get certified by completing the course

Get Started