Top 10 Reasons for Project Failure


Learn the top 10 reasons why projects fail in this informative video with Jennifer Bridges, PMP. When you know what could derail your project, you can apply strategies to avoid the pitfalls.

In Review: Top 10 Reasons for Project Failure

In this video, Jennifer covered 10 of the most common reasons why projects fail. Through her own research and experience she revealed that the causes of project failure are:

  1. Unaligned expectations, where people on the team don’t agree on the way forward;
  2. Starting the work before the project is properly approved or baselined, and potentially when the budget hasn’t even been agreed yet;
  3. Inexperienced or untrained resources who are not able to deliver what is expected in the agreed timeframes;
  4. Inadequate systems which don’t support team collaboration;
  5. Inaccessible systems which are not available online and that the team cannot use effectively;
  6. Conflict on the team;
  7. The “us” versus “them” mentality where different departments do not pull together for the sake of the project;
  8. Misaligned resources, for example where someone is allocated to work they are not capable or interested in doing;
  9. Switching priorities without making the necessary changes in the project budget or plan; and
  10. Uncontrolled scope where team members commit to delivering work that has not been approved.

Pro Tip: Several of these causes of failure relate to resource management. The best online project tools help you allocate the right work to the right people at the right time, in real time and across projects. As an example, see the dashboard tool, which gives you real-time project views of resource allocation across all projects. Review the software you are using and make sure it’s flexible and capable of managing task allocation. If you’re still using Excel to track projects, just be mindful of blind spots related to cross-project resource management so you can plan accordingly.

We hope you’ve enjoyed hearing about these reasons and are now able to think about how you can stop them derailing your own project.

Thanks for watching!



Hello. I’m Jennifer Whitt, Director of Well welcome to our whiteboard session today on the top ten reasons why projects fail. I’m sure you’ve probably experienced some of these on your own. But in one company I worked in, I was responsible for going in, recovering troubled projects. So, I began to study the projects, what made the ones succeed, succeed, and what made the ones fail, fail.

So, I’ve looked at a cross-section of these and over time, I’ve seen repeat causes of projects failing. There are all kinds of research done out there. You can Google it and get probably over a million hits on why projects fail. Gartner Group and some other organizations track this all the time. But these are from my experience, and see if some of these are common.

Number one, unaligned expectations – unaligned expectations can still be unaligned even though expectations have been set. They’ve been agreed upon. But I’m sure you’ve seen it yourself, where people leave the meetings and they go to their respective organizations and they talk about how they’re unaligned. They don’t agree.

Even though they’ve agreed on paper, organizations, groups or teams still don’t have the same expectations, so they are unaligned. What happens is unconsciously people still start doing what they really want to do and that comes into conflict.

Number two, implementing before the project is actually approved or baseline, so you’ve seen it where in every organization or company, where companies are trying to get projects executed and implemented. Maybe they’re trying to get first to market on a new product or maybe there’s a need in the organization or outside the organization.

Then, the team members maybe have experience in that organization so they know kind of what’s supposed to be done. So, everybody starts running down the road before all the approvals, before the budgets, before everything has been approved. What happens is, people start doing things that maybe end up not being on the approved or baseline plan. Maybe budgets that people thought were going to get approved, don’t get approved, so resources don’t get approved. So, what happens is things already get worked on that are out of scope, outside the budget, so that causes problems down the road.

Number three, inexperienced or untrained resources, so we all are fighting for resources and today many organizations are trying to do more with less. So, it’s not uncommon to have resources on your team that are inexperienced or untrained. That’s something we have to deal with. But the idea is that when we do set that situation up, without estimating things appropriately and taking that into account, we get into trouble.

Because maybe a certain resource or certain person provided a certain task or produced a certain deliverable in the past, so maybe have estimates from a previous project. Well, if you put a new resource in place, maybe one that doesn’t have the same experience, skill sets as the other one and you’re going off the old estimates, if you don’t re-estimate based on the experience or the skill sets of that resource, then they’re probably not going to be able to accomplish it in the same time. So, it set’s that person up for failure and it sets the project up for failure too.

Inadequate systems, meaning maybe this is a project where the resources are global or they’re remote. Your team members are remote and maybe you need some access for people to be able to collaborate, and update things. So, without having the adequate systems where people can access things online, update them in real-time, if they’re inadequate things aren’t going to be updated and people informed appropriately.

So, number five, inaccessible systems, again, that gets back to maybe software, spreadsheets, tools, templates are not online or critical resources on your projects can’t get those updated. Maybe they can’t even see them and view them. Or even know what task they’re responsible for, what deliverables they’re to be producing by what timeline. They don’t know the milestones. So when these two aren’t available then, again, that sets you up for failure or the team up for failure.

Number six, team conflict, so for sure, when projects start failing or things start going wrong, emotions start going high and team’s start getting into conflict. Everyone is at their worst at that time. But it’s common for teams to begin getting in conflict. That can actually be the cause of some projects derailing, when teams get in conflict.

If you think of sports teams or maybe bands or I don’t know if you’re artistic or musically inclined, but typically, where you have people together on the same team, then generally they’re working together. So if your team is in conflict and fighting against each other, then that can lead to the actual project failing and amplify it if it’s not the cause.

Number seven, the “us” versus “them” mentality. You’ve seen it where maybe different organizations, maybe sales and marketing don’t get along, or the marketing team doesn’t like the IT team, because sales sell something and they say IT can’t get it done for their customer. So, it doesn’t matter what scenario, you’ve seen it all in your own organization. But the “us”
versus “them” leads to projects failing because people stake their territory and they fight for their right. They take their stand and so it just leads to more problems.

Number eight, misaligned resources, that’s where maybe you’ve had to put someone in a role. Maybe again, they’re not trained. Maybe they’re not experienced and they can’t even do it. They don’t want to do it. But if they’re misaligned, if you don’t set your resources, your people up for success, then typically people don’t do what they don’t want to do. We do what we love doing. We do what we know how to do. But when we start putting people in misaligned roles, then things don’t get done on time and that can lead to a big source of failure.

Number nine, switching priorities, so especially now a days with things, companies are changing priorities on a regular basis, so if the priorities change within the organization and it’s not communicated to your team or your organization. The project plan has gone back and re-baselined and people are still working off of those. Maybe some of the priorities change and some of your critical resources or critical people on the team get taken away.

Maybe some of the scope gets cut or the budget gets cut from your project and shifted to another. That leads to project failures, if you don’t go back and baseline your project plan. If you do go back and use good project management techniques, then it won’t be considered a failed project.

Number ten, uncontrolled Scope, that’s where things changed due to changing priorities or things changing, where the scope gets out of control. Maybe people are committing to things outside the change control board.

That’s why it’s critical to have a change control board, to bring those scope requests in. Things that you run into during the project, give to the change control board and let them handle those decisions. But if those decisions aren’t brought to the change control board, so your stakeholders can analyze it and make decisions based on what the company needs are, then it just leads to project failure.

So, these are some of the things that we feel like are the top ten reasons. Our team at has been hard at work and trying to incorporate these ideas, these principals, new ways to socialize and mobilize teams quickly and putting things into the software.

If you’re trying to plan accordingly and avoid these top ten reasons for your project to potentially fail then sign up for our software at

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