Why Do Projects Fail?

Why Projects Fail

"We tend to seek easy, single-factor explanations of success. For most important things, though, success actually requires avoiding the many separate causes of failure" - Jared Diamond

This site is a support reference to the online and in-person Project Management and leadership training offered by the "International Project Leadership Academy" (a division of Calleam Consulting Ltd). The site focuses on the causes of project failure and provides a platform for discussing what it takes to make a project a success.

Learn more, view our upcoming "Achieving Project Success" class or read our latest blog post below...



Our latest blog post...


Pride of Workmanship

Synopsis: The more management focuses on product quality the greater the levels of motivation at the staff level

I’ve written before about how corporate cultures are formed and the massive impact they can have on the outcomes an organization achieves. My hypothesis is that in the longer term organizations with healthy, positive cultures (that are properly aligned with the organization’s desired outcomes) are more productive and successful than organizations in which the culture is negative and de-motivating. Over the past months I’ve been trying to quantify that affect and will share some of the initial findings of that research on this blog over the coming months.

The first set of data I’ll share is a very simple survey that looked at the relationship between the amount of emphasis an organization’s management team places on quality (as judged by the workers) versus the level of motivation the workers felt in working for that organization. My sense for things was that the more seriously an organization’s management team took quality, the more motivated the workers would feel.

Over the years I’ve asked hundreds of people about their best and worst experiences working in a project. Not surprisingly, those conversations clearly show that people find it stressful to be involved in a troubled project, while they are energized and excited when they were part of a project that succeeded. That simple observation makes a lot of sense. A troubled project often means longer working hours and lots of pressure. A successful project is one that adds value and people feel positive about themselves and their organizations when they are a part of something that succeeds.

With those anecdotal discussions in the back of my mind I asked participants in my classes to rate their organizations on two simple questions:

Question 1 - Emphasis placed on quality – On a scale of 1 to 5 (1 = no attention, 5 = very significant levels of attention) how much emphasis (in deeds, not just words) does your organization’s management team place on quality?

Question 2 - Level of motivation among the staff – On a scale of 1 to 5 (1 = totally de-motivated, 5 = very motivated) how motivated would you say people are working for your organization are?

The participants in the survey are all working people with between 5 and 25 years of experience. They are typically working for medium to larger organizations and almost all are involved in projects to one degree or another. They come from a broad range of backgrounds include IT, Healthcare, Construction, Event management, Finance, Media and Education Management.

While I was expecting to see a correlation between the two, even I was surprised at how strong the correlation is. Having survey the first 50 people the graph is as follows:

As the trend line shows within the set of data gathered, the more emphasis management place on quality the more motivated the workers felt. I think people are intrinsically motivated by success and I theorize that people are motivated by a sense of pride of workmanship that comes from working in an organization in which management takes quality seriously and hence provides the resources and focus needed to make quality happen.

I’ll keep on collecting data for a little more and once I’ve got 100 participants I’ll publish the source data as well.

See also: Corporate culture – part 1.