Why Some Projects Fail at the Planning Stage

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Man lamenting a failing project
Posted on Friday, 8th September, 2017 - 09:10

Project management is no easy business. Adam Alami from Project Smart writes ‘projects are often the offshoot of crisis situations. They kick-off in circumstances that inherently prevent success.’ This may be true, but a lot of issues can be prevented during planning. The right kind of project plan is one where everyone can turn to it for guidance. It is safe to say that if your plan is flawed, your project has a very high chance of going off the rails. Here are some early warning signs to look out for:

  1. Ambiguous business case

Having a cohesive business case means everyone understands the reason behind the project. This is important for motivating your team. It also provides clear guidelines for all the work carried out in the project. If people do not know what is at stake, the project has a high chance of failing. When planning a project, you must ask these questions:

  • Who in particular stands to benefit from the project?
  • What strategic goal will the project aim to achieve?

  1. Undefined project scope

It’s almost impossible to solve every issue an organization has in one project. A well-defined project scope keeps your goals realistic. However, a project is always susceptible to scope creep. This is when shifting priorities and expectations cause a project’s scale to become overblown. This strains resources and leads to confusion within a team. The more a project is impacted by scope creep, its chances of success get lower.

  1. Lack of risk identification

Risk management is fundamental to a successful project. Risk becomes apparent when teams are thorough in planning their course of action. Some risks are unavoidable. But, the right kind of strategy will outline steps to minimise their impact. Many project teams fail to identify risk. This can be due to either carelessness, or being over-optimistic. This just means they will be blindsided by risks when they inevitably occur. This is sure to throw projects into a tailspin.

  1. Poor estimates of budget and resources

In 2013, less than a third of all projects were successfully completed on time and on budget. This goes hand in hand with the other issues discussed in this blog. If teams are unclear on what they’re trying to achieve, they will allocate resources poorly. If projects don’t fend off scope creep, your team will try to do more with less. Poor risk management means that teams haven’t factored likely scenarios into expenses. A well-estimated, clear budget keeps a project on track.

  1. Undefined roles

The right kind of plan is one that brings clarity. People do their jobs best when they know their exact responsibilities. If your project plan doesn’t allocate roles effectively, people will get confused. Remember the frustration in school when you did a group project and you ended up doing all the work? Vaguely defined roles make that kind of scenario all the more likely. Confusion and frustration have no place in a successful project.

Hopefully this blog has shown how fundamental planning is to successful project management. Project planning is a key part of our specially developed e-learning. Our PMP and CAPM certificates enable managers to create thorough, actionable plans. The use of a best practice methodology gives managers confidence in their strategic vision. To learn more about our PMP online course, click here. To learn more about our CAPM online course, click here.