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Lessons in failure as a project manager

Whilst it is widely accepted that project failure does happen, it isn’t the easiest of subjects to talk about. However, the more we face up to it as an issue, the better prepared we will be to deal with it in the future, learn lessons in failure and succeed next time. Failure should always be seen as a learning opportunity. It provides an opportunity to see what went well, what went badly and what it might be possible to improve on in the future.

Why do projects fail?

The experts at Parallel Project Training  believe that to better understand how to deal with failure in a project it is important to know why projects fail. It is estimated that around 30% of projects are actually fully successful.

There are a number of reasons that a project may fail. It could be over budget, take a lot longer to complete than originally anticipated or simply not be able to deliver the desired outcome. To a certain extent each of these constitutes a failure from a project. Of course, if all of these happen then it is certainly a failure on every level.

It could be over budget because the cost of some of the required resources go up in price, affecting the overall budget of the project. This could be a particular problem if the budget was tight to begin with. It could fail to meet its desired time scale because the workload has been underestimated, or because there were not enough team members to complete the work.

Take on feedback

Feedback can be useful both as a way of seeing what you are doing well and also what isn’t going well. It can help to pinpoint issues as they arise and help to move a project back on course if possible before it becomes a complete failure. Ignoring feedback that points out issues and taking it as a personal attack rather than constructively can often damage a project even further.

Getting your project team together when something isn’t going well and working to find a solution by letting everyone have their voice means that you will avail your project to as much feedback as possible. This could help you to avoid failure. Never assume that newer members of your team may not be able to come up with clever solutions to any problems that present themselves. Every voice in your team matters and every team member should feel valued enough to give their opinions and be heard.

Some reasons you might fail

The best way to learn about project failures and to improve your success rate is from other project managers and experience. It is important to ensure that you have a “why” that is big enough in your project, this is the reason for your project.

Before you start to consider how the project might fail. This will help you to put measures in place to ensure that those failures do not happen. Keep your project plans moving forwards with purpose and passion and remember that even a failure can be a learning opportunity.

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