At What Point Do Projects Fail?

You’d be amazed at how many projects are reported green throughout the life cycle, only to go red at the end and fail.

It looks like your team has managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. That they were unlucky and they just failed to get the project over the finish line in time.

At one company I worked at they had a metric for the percentage of projects that were green, which was always in the high 80s.  Yet our overall delivery was in the low 30s.  That means that 50 percent on projects that were doing well suddenly started to fail. They slipped and slipped until there was nothing that could be done to save them.

The reality was somewhat different, when I took over the ownership of that area I did a detailed analysis, and what we found that 40 percent of the projects had actually failed before they had even started.

They didn’t slip one day at a time until it was too much, these projects couldn’t have been delivered on time if all the work had been completed 100 percent on the first day.

In my experience, the majority of projects are doomed to fail right from the start. According to Gartner projects end up costing three times the original estimate, which equates to a 300 percent increase in scope or complexity. According to research on projects that fail 70 percent of the time, the teams involved knew they were going to fail.

To fix your on-time delivery you need to look at the start of the process, not the end, make sure that you have set yourself up for success, and have a chance of meeting the date. Ask your teams how confident they feel, and if they say not very then look to fix whatever the problem is.

If you don’t take care at the start, then you are setting yourself, and your company up for failure.