Understanding why projects fail

Why do projects fail? The majority of the time, projects fail because of unclear processes, or strategies or perhaps it can be due to poor scheduling and cost management. By definition, A project is said to have failed when it has not met the necessary requirements. More specifically, when a project falls short of set expectations.
In order for a project to be considered successful it must:

  • Deliver to cost
  • Deliver to quality
  • Be on time, on schedule and within budget
  • Satisfy the requirements outlined in the initial plan


Unfortunately, even if all of these above criteria are met – projects can still fall apart at the seams. That’s just the way the project management cookie crumbles. So instead of sitting at your desk stressing about what went wrong, remember that everyone experiences a project failure from time to time. In fact, to prove it, here’s a Dilbert clip entitled “Why Projects Fail”  that’s resonating with project managers all over the globe.

Related blog posts:
What is Project Management? – A Video Infographic (the video version of this infographic).
What is Project Management – Infographic slide (the PowerPoint version of this infographic).
What is Requirements Management? – A Video Infographic


  1. Uladzislau Shauchenka

    Can I suggest a related resource? Why Projects Fail is an in-depth book containing suggestions and recommendations regarding failed projects, case studies and analysis.

  2. Francis Hooke

    Hi Catherine,

    I enjoyed watching the Dilbert vid, thanks for sharing! 🙂

    Reasons for project failure is a MASSIVE topic. I’m sure you could think of pretty much any reason under the sun why a project could fail. I’m sure there’s a project out there somewhere that failed because the coffee machine broke!!

    I wrote a blog earlier today where I was arguing that a chief cause of failure is not following a methodology. You might enjoy reading/following this… blog.qualityprojectdelivery.com

    For your success criteria that’s a bit easier to nail. Here’s a list of the objectives I think a project manager has to stay on top of during the project:

    * Costs – +/- an amount of budget.
    * Timescales – +/- amount of time on completion date.
    * Quality – +/- off quality specification
    * Scope – inclusion/exclusion of must haves, nice to haves.
    * Risks – individual and aggregated risks
    * Benefits – +/- % from an improvement goal

    Obviously the PM uses a plan, RAID log, highlight report, etc to do their job, but ultimately it all comes back to managing those six points.

    Hope that helps. If you’ve got any comments for me on my blog that would be really welcome.

    All the best


    • Catherine Constantinides

      Hi Francis,

      I am glad you enjoyed the cartoon. Dilbert always knows what to say, doesn’t he? It is nice to connect with you on LinkedIn and through our blogs! These are great points and I really enjoyed your post today. I agree 100%- being able to effectively juggle those elements you mentioned is critical to the success of a project.

      See you around the online project management community. 🙂



  3. Jon

    This is hilarious and so true!

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