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How to Get a Failing Project Back On Track

How To Get Failing Projects Back On Track, Project Management Blog
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Project failure can happen to anybody—and to any project. Previously I’ve shared content on project management, how to run your projects successfully and overall project execution and delivery.

Today, we’ll discuss some of the key reasons behind project failure and how to fix them. Also, some simple yet powerful suggestions to recover your troubled projects. Let’s dive in –

Projects fail for many reasons. Stakeholders can change their objectives, team members can be re purposed to projects at imminent risk or of greater business value, budgets can disappear, and misplaced priorities to name a few.

Any of these sound familiar? Are your projects thriving? Or are they suffering from swelling budgets, strained deadlines, and sluggish progress? Assume a situation-

Your project is in trouble. You and your team know it. But somehow you manage to keep it away from your management. Now you want a quick fix. But you couldn’t find any. So what can be done to get back on track?

A Standish CHAOS Chronicles report states that only 52% of completed projects meet their proposed functionality. The same study, based on more than 13,000 projects, reports that successful projects made up “just over a third or 34% of all projects”.

Another report on 9,236 information technology (IT) projects showed that project success rates have settled at a startling 28%.

I’ve heard all too often that despite every obvious intention for a project to be successful, the reality is that sometimes things fall apart.


Where did it all go wrong?

The Project Management Institute reports that 9.9% of every dollar invested is wasted due to poor project planning. On top of that, the Standish Group Chaos Report finds that only 29% of IT projects are successful and 19% are considered utter failures. That sounds like a lot of time and money are wasted.

As teams collaborating across the globe and between organizations, it’s important than ever to master the project planning process.

Having a clear project management work plan saves you loads of money and time. But first, it’s helpful to understand where most project work plans fail!

Reasons Of Project Failure, Project Management Blog

1. Poor Communication:

There has been one thing that consistently shows up on every project gone bad — poor communication. The other factors vary, but communication issues are always at the core of failed projects.”

– Tom Atkins, Founder, Quarry House

Everyone knows how important it is to proactively share information and knowledge during a project to be successful; yet poor communication continues to affect teams again and again. If you and your team haven’t put any focus on improving your communication skills yet, then do it now. Don’t wait until the next project disaster to convince you that it’s necessary.

Orangescrum’s In-App Chat add-on makes communication easy and seamless. In almost any collaborative environment, it’s very important to have helpful tools for communication and with this chat add-on, you can do more in less time. Now communicate faster and better with Orangescrum’s In-App chat.

2. Underrated Timeliness:

Projects fail due to underestimated time. Now, when I create projects I estimate 3-5 situations that could delay the project and how to deal with those situations and allot time for whichever would take the longest time to recover. Now 75% of my projects finish ahead of schedule.”

– Jazmin Truesdale, CEO, Mino Enterprises

When you don’t focus on the timeline for a project, the result is more than just a missed deadline. Workers have to be paid more for overtime and hence, your estimated budget goes over. That’s why it’s vital to predict your timeline accurately.

3. Lack of Detailed Documentation:

The nitty-gritty is what is going to make you or break you. Projects start out strong and start to break down as we get closer to the deadline.”

-Jennifer Mansfield, Head of Customer Support, Qgiv

Are you a big picture thinker, have an eye for detail? During project execution, a project manager can create fifty different types of documents to facilitate the planning, tracking, and reporting of the project. Most organizations don’t have documentation or reporting a strategy to ensure the fusion and distribution of project information in real time. As a result, the poorly managed project documents produce the following symptoms:

  • Lack of visibility
  • Weak security
  • Loss of data
  • Limited collaboration

If you’re missing some part of the picture, then start reviewing past projects to check where your common oversights have been, and take some lessons to plan even more accurately in the future.

4. Poor Resource Allocation:

It doesn’t matter how many resources you have. If you don’t know how to use them, it will never be enough”.

According to the Project Management Institute’s 2018 survey, 21% of projects fail due to limited or taxed resources, and inadequate resource forecasting accounts for 18% of project failures.

Running out of time, money, and manpower can easily kill a project. As a project manager, it’s important to consider all the resources while building your project plan. When the workload is optimized, productivity increases. But when it’s not, it can lead to burnout or disengagement.

To avoid this pitfall by balancing employee workloads and plotting out resources needed. The good news is that you can easily avoid these issues by planning resource allocation and evaluating workloads from the very beginning.

Tools like Orangescrum can help you achieve optimum resource utilization, thereby providing you the visibility and flexibility to balance workloads.

5. Lack of Risk Management Strategy:

Any attack made by the rebels against this station would be a useless gesture, no matter what technical data they’ve obtained. This station is now the ultimate power in the universe.”

– Admiral Motti

Among all odds, this is the most important thing that everyone should consider while running a project. What can affect your projects badly? What are the risks that your project may face? What is the probability of risk occurrence? And so on. If you figure out and manage and manage these risks carefully, you can beat the odds for successful project delivery.

Identifying risk and keeping a wary eye isn’t enough. Be proactive in dealing with potential problems, respond quickly if they occur, and do what you can to keep them from happening in the first place.

Multiple factors are there that can lead to project failure, including lack of proper communication, scope creep, stakeholder conflict or lack of good project plan.

As you’ve found causes that may lead to project failure, let’s focus on how to get back them on track?


Since yesterday’s ideas didn’t help, here are some suggestions that might point you in the right direction.

Tips To Bring Projects Back On Track, Project Management Blog

1. Refocus the Scope:

Begin by going back to the defining documents including your Statement of Work and approved Change Requests. Figure out what you have committed to accomplishing.

Note down all of the things that were unofficially added to the project. What you are trying to obtain is a clear understanding of the commitments and the expectations of others. With these lists in hand, meet with the project stakeholders and agree on what should be part of the current effort.

2. Determine The Cost:

Find out what the estimated budget is and how much has already been spent. After calculating the difference (hopefully, it isn’t negative) compare it to what remains to be done. Based on the revised result, plan as per the requirement and determine a reasonable estimate to complete.

3. Draw Up The New Schedule:

Based on the required effort and available resources, recalculate the schedule.

Figure out the exact amount of resources that are available, the amount of time it will take to complete, and set new goals that are achievable. Meet your stakeholders with your new plan.

If the project isn’t going to deliver what it set out to do, then look at how you can get there at this point in the project.

Draw Up The New Schedule, Project Management Blog


4. A Thorough Review:

Give a thorough review of the exact goals and prerequisites that were determined before the project had seen the light of day. Comparing these to the reports from project teams will give you a better idea of any corners that were cut, missed, miscommunication that occurred or where did the resources lag. The defining documentation that can be reviewed in this situation includes the following:

  • The Project Details
  • The Risks
  • The Project Plan
  • Resource Allocation and Utilization

After determining the factors that have led your project astray, schedule a meeting with the stakeholders and put in a concerted effort to find a way forward, rather than terminating early.

5. Learn From The Mistakes:

Draw the documentation from projects similar to yours that were undertaken in the past. Whether they were successful or failed, there is sure to be valuable information to be gleaned from the lessons that were learned while the work was being done.

Keep your projects from failing

There may come a time when the best course of action is to lay down tools and call the project for what it is – a dead end. This shouldn’t be considered as an option until the last solution is considered. After all, it is not only your reputation as a project manager but also that of the organization that is at stake.

Get your failing projects back on track by being watchful of the leading causes, tell-tale symptoms, and proven cures highlighted so far.

Don’t stress out. Use Orangescrum to keep all your projects and teams organized, productive, and thriving.

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I’m sure that there are recommendations that could be added to this list. What would you include? Have you ever rescued a project before? What’s your story? Let us know in the comments below!

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