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Q. Why Projects Fail Due To Four Common Causes

  • 1.  Q. Why Projects Fail Due To Four Common Causes

    Posted 04-29-2021 03:36 PM

    In my experience, four causes for project failure are: 


    ROLE AMBIGUITY……………………____
    Lack of PROBLEM VALIDATION. . . . _____
    Lack of PROCESS VERIFICATION. …- ____
    ABSENCE OF A VISIBLE PROACTIVE
    CONFLICT PROCESS. . . . . . . . . . . ________

                                                                  100%

    Q
    . In your specific project experiences what percentage of each of the four (4) attributes above would you assign, such that the total per project always adds up to 100% of its "Common Causes?"

    Stay Healthy!
    Cheers,
    Bill



    ------------------------------
    William M. Hayden Jr., Ph.D., P.E., CMQ/OE, F.ASCE
    Buffalo, N.Y.

    "It is never too late to be what you might have been." -- George Eliot 1819 - 1880
    ------------------------------


  • 2.  RE: Q. Why Projects Fail Due To Four Common Causes

    Posted 05-02-2021 11:39 AM

    I think understanding and learning from project failures  is an important topic for all engineers and fundamental for professional growth. However, I don't think this is topic that can put in a simple box.

    By way of grounding, I see project failure as not being able to deliver on or meet promises. These could be cost, schedule, or functionality or some combination. I'm using functionality here as a catch all for solving the right problem and providing a solution that meets the requisite level of serviceability, reliability, longevity and public acceptance.  

    From my own experience and  as a student of  this topic I can muster up a list of frequently occurring themes of causality leading to project failure. But,  I also see a dependency between these themes and their relative importance on project characteristics and setting. For me, these factors include project type and scope, technical complexity and novelty, commercial setting, non-technical issues,  and actors (catch all for owner, stakeholders including general public, designers, contractors, etc.). Therefore my earlier comment about being careful to over simplify.

    The professional, academic and grey literature is replete with information on project failures and causality. I think this is where engineering professionals need to go to learn. Sadly, from my own experience, there's a reluctance to learn and or the desire to get something done takes precedent over the fundamentals of seeking out experience and learning from others.

    I also think the connection can be made between themes of causality behind project failures and cognitive biases and heuristics. Examples of cognitive biases and heuristics that I think are common in the engineering world  include over confidence, confirmation and anchoring. The Dunning–Kruger effect is also important in explaining behaviors and outcomes. I think awareness of the role cognitive biases and heuristics play in determining outcomes is equally important as learning from experience.



    ------------------------------
    Mitch Winkler P.E., M.ASCE
    Houston, TX
    ------------------------------



  • 3.  RE: Q. Why Projects Fail Due To Four Common Causes

    Posted 05-03-2021 09:02 AM
    In my experience, the major and common reason for project failures are

    1) Lack of competent staff preparing the project specification, resulting in the unclear scope for contractors.
    2) Poorly calculated budget for the project. maybe without considering the contingencies/calamities / other unexpected conditions.
    3) Unexperienced / less experienced Project Managers deputed for the projects with authorities.
    4) Un-wanted interferences by internal stakeholders during project construction works or change of client requirement in the middle of the project..

    the other one, may not be big but important: Considering the cost and time only as a key factor of project success than Quality & Safety.

    Thacks Regards

    ------------------------------
    Naveenkumar Chilakwad Aff.M.ASCE
    Manager QA/QC
    Bangalore North
    ------------------------------



  • 4.  RE: Q. Why Projects Fail Due To Four Common Causes

    Posted 05-03-2021 09:03 AM
    Lack of Planning, Lack of Project Team Alignment and Scope of Work Definition are missing, if this is supposed to be a list of common project failure causes.

    ------------------------------
    Michael Kozinetz Aff.M.ASCE
    Construction Manager
    Murrells Inlet SC
    ------------------------------



  • 5.  RE: Q. Why Projects Fail Due To Four Common Causes

    Posted 05-03-2021 09:02 AM
    ROLE AMBIGUITY……………………__40__
    Lack of PROBLEM VALIDATION. . . . __25___
    Lack of PROCESS VERIFICATION. …- ___20_
    ABSENCE OF A VISIBLE PROACTIVE
    CONFLICT PROCESS. . . . . . . . . . . ____15____

                                                                  100%



    ------------------------------
    Evan Chan P.E., F.ASCE
    General Manager
    Aurora ON
    ------------------------------



  • 6.  RE: Q. Why Projects Fail Due To Four Common Causes

    Posted 05-03-2021 10:17 AM
    ROLE AMBIGUITY……………………_40_
    Lack of PROBLEM VALIDATION. . . . _30__
    Lack of PROCESS VERIFICATION. …- _10_
    ABSENCE OF A VISIBLE PROACTIVE
    CONFLICT PROCESS. . . . . . . . . . . ___20___

                                                                  100%



    ------------------------------
    David McCormick P.E., D.WRE, M.ASCE
    Partner
    McCormick Engineering LLC
    South Bend IN
    ------------------------------



  • 7.  RE: Q. Why Projects Fail Due To Four Common Causes

    Posted 05-10-2021 09:27 AM
    1. Conflict Process - 10%
    2. Lack of Problem Verification - 10%
    3. Lack of Problem Validation -  10%
    4. Role Ambiguity - 35%
    5. Absence of a visible Pro-active - 35%

    sample live scenario:

    A new program to be injected into the company portfolio is directly executed by uninforming stakeholders.
    The new program is the consolidation of existing programs and subprograms(2) which are existing and running smoothly. And taking conclusion that because it is running smooth, consolidating those programs and subprograms will also run smoothly.
    What happens is that all stakeholders ( companies)  involved will not be cooperated due to the fact (2 & 3 ) that consolidation will cause, a. decreasing or removing some responsibility and control (4) and all shows lack of interest or either creating scenario to make this program impossible(5).

    Solution on this can be referred to on PMbook in a Project Management Approached, were creating this consolidation possible.


    ------------------------------
    Manolito Cresencio A.M.ASCE
    QS Qupervisor
    Riyadh
    ------------------------------



  • 8.  RE: Q. Why Projects Fail Due To Four Common Causes

    Posted 05-17-2021 10:37 AM
    ROLE AMBIGUITY……………………__25__
    Lack of PROBLEM VALIDATION. . . . __35___
    Lack of PROCESS VERIFICATION. …- _15___
    ABSENCE OF A VISIBLE PROACTIVE
    CONFLICT PROCESS. . . . . . . . . . . ___25_____

    ------------------------------
    Clark McWilliams M.ASCE
    Engineer Supervisor
    Benton AR
    ------------------------------



  • 9.  RE: Q. Why Projects Fail Due To Four Common Causes

    Posted 05-26-2021 11:51 AM

    This BSI document provides some options to consider for improving project outcomes.

    What's the aim of BSI's newly revised standard? Well, BS 6079:2019 Project management - Principles and guidance for the management of projects exists to help project managers achieve the desired outcome of a project efficiently and effectively. A secondary goal is to help organizations improve their project management capability, so they'll build up institutional learning about what works best in their own circumstances.

    The standard is intended for use by senior managers, project practitioners and anyone who interacts with the project team. It's written to apply to any kind or size of organization, and projects of any size and duration.


    Stay Healthy!
    Cheers,
    Bill



    ------------------------------
    William M. Hayden Jr., Ph.D., P.E., CMQ/OE, F.ASCE
    Buffalo, N.Y.

    "It is never too late to be what you might have been." -- George Eliot 1819 - 1880
    ------------------------------



  • 10.  RE: Q. Why Projects Fail Due To Four Common Causes

    Posted 2 days ago

    I don't think anyone will disagree with the importance of communication.  An irony that I see in many of these discussions – and I can be as guilty as the next – is that many times we (in the general sense) do not practice good communication.  An element of good communication is being open to and wanting to truly understand alternative viewpoints. Food for thought on a Saturday afternoon.



    ------------------------------
    Mitch Winkler P.E., M.ASCE
    Houston, TX
    ------------------------------



  • 11.  RE: Q. Why Projects Fail Due To Four Common Causes

    Posted 05-03-2021 01:00 PM
    Hi Mitch, thanks for your usual insightful comments and analysis.

    If you would then, please add your additional causes for project failure to the list, and then for that new list, estimate their frequency of occurrence.

    No doubt that we will get to linking causes to the restraining forces that allow their common occurrence.

    Cheers,
    Bill

    ------------------------------
    William M. Hayden Jr., Ph.D., P.E., CMQ/OE, F.ASCE
    Buffalo, N.Y.

    "It is never too late to be what you might have been." -- George Eliot 1819 - 1880
    ------------------------------



  • 12.  RE: Q. Why Projects Fail Due To Four Common Causes

    Posted 05-03-2021 01:01 PM
    Thanks, Naveenkumar for your insightful input.

    I do wonder what, in general, you would estimate for each comment as a percentage of the total.

    Cheers,
    Bill


    ------------------------------
    William M. Hayden Jr., Ph.D., P.E., CMQ/OE, F.ASCE
    Buffalo, N.Y.

    "It is never too late to be what you might have been." -- George Eliot 1819 - 1880
    ------------------------------



  • 13.  RE: Q. Why Projects Fail Due To Four Common Causes

    Posted 05-03-2021 01:01 PM
    Hi Michael, thanks for your exam[ples.

    So if you added your comments to the list that started this dialogue,
    what estimate of each would you say, in general, create a common list by
    percentage of the occurrence.

    Cheers,
    Bill

    ------------------------------
    William M. Hayden Jr., Ph.D., P.E., CMQ/OE, F.ASCE
    Buffalo, N.Y.

    "It is never too late to be what you might have been." -- George Eliot 1819 - 1880
    ------------------------------



  • 14.  RE: Q. Why Projects Fail Due To Four Common Causes

    Posted 05-03-2021 01:01 PM
    Thanks, Evan for answering the questions as provided.

    Cheers,
    Bill

    ------------------------------
    William M. Hayden Jr., Ph.D., P.E., CMQ/OE, F.ASCE
    Buffalo, N.Y.

    "It is never too late to be what you might have been." -- George Eliot 1819 - 1880
    ------------------------------



  • 15.  RE: Q. Why Projects Fail Due To Four Common Causes

    Posted 05-10-2021 09:26 PM
    Thanks, Manolito for answering the question, and providing your explanation.

    I have very fond memories of being in Riyadh some years ago....actually, for 3 times across that many years.
    I was engaged to provide an interactive 2-day seminar for some 50 or more engineers and others on the
    system of quality management for projects. It may have been around the mid-1990s.

    Stay Healthy!
    Cheers,
    Bill

    ------------------------------
    William M. Hayden Jr., Ph.D., P.E., CMQ/OE, F.ASCE
    Buffalo, N.Y.

    "It is never too late to be what you might have been." -- George Eliot 1819 - 1880
    ------------------------------



  • 16.  RE: Q. Why Projects Fail Due To Four Common Causes

    Posted 06-21-2021 01:20 PM

    While the above responses answer the question, I thought it might be interesting to learn
    who else has, once project performance turned sour, turned to the art & science of systems for the management of quality.

    Some quite reputable places to go for such content include, but are not limited to:

      I look for to the dialogue this suggestion will excite.

      Stay Healthy!

      Cheers,

      Bill

      [1] https://asq.org/

      [2] https://deming.org/

      [3] https://www.pmi.org/

      [4] https://scholar.google.com/scholar?q=juran+institute%E2%80%99s+management+theory&hl=en&as_sdt=0&as_vis=1&oi=scholart



      ------------------------------
      William M. Hayden Jr., Ph.D., P.E., CMQ/OE, F.ASCE
      Buffalo, N.Y.

      "It is never too late to be what you might have been." -- George Eliot 1819 - 1880
      ------------------------------



    1. 17.  RE: Q. Why Projects Fail Due To Four Common Causes

      Posted 06-21-2021 04:47 PM
      Not to sound like a broken record, but I think the underlying causes have less to do with book knowledge and experience and much more do with human behavior as i posited in my first reply. I'm not implying bad intentions but humans have a tendency for overconfidence, as a prime example. Resource constraints and competition  don't help. I also think the limitations of a forum like this need to be considered. I don't think anyone is going to self-identify as not book knowledgeable and experience in the art of project management or subject to cognitive biases :)

      ------------------------------
      Mitch Winkler P.E., M.ASCE
      Houston, TX
      ------------------------------



    2. 18.  RE: Q. Why Projects Fail Due To Four Common Causes

      Posted 06-30-2021 11:43 AM

      First, thanks to each and all who contributed their opinions to the stated question.

      While four engineers responded directly to the question, others in their way, also provided valuable directly related perspectives.

      What the "Evidence" for common types of project failure in part or whole demonstrates is that it appears that project failure is caused infrequently by a lack of knowledge of engineering and its technology.

      Your feedback identifies the main categories of people, process and leadership, or the lack thereof, as at least 80% or more as evidence that the knowledge of engineering in and of itself is necessary, but not sufficient to routinely deliver successful projects.

      At this very time, I believe we have a unique opportunity to begin the systematic educational prevention of such unwanted, routine project failures.

      Please go now to the ASCE Collaborate discussion forum on the many criteria categories.

      Why?

      Because if we keep doing what we've been doing,

      we will keep getting what we've been getting.

      Stay Healthy!

      Cheers,

      Bill

       

       



      ------------------------------
      William M. Hayden Jr., Ph.D., P.E., CMQ/OE, F.ASCE
      Buffalo, N.Y.

      "It is never too late to be what you might have been." -- George Eliot 1819 - 1880
      ------------------------------



    3. 19.  RE: Q. Why Projects Fail Due To Four Common Causes

      Posted 07-01-2021 12:30 PM

      Mitch,

      My name is Dean Kashiwagi. 

      Experience: Professional Civil Engineer, USAF 14 years.  USAF sent me to get my masters and doctorate at ASU in industrial engineering. I ended up at ASU as a research professor. I am a Fulbright Scholar, and an IFMA fellow. 

      Formed a Performance Based Studies Research Group (PBSRG). Research results: ran 2K tests to purchase and deliver project services, $17.6M research funding delivering $6.7B of services in all areas, in ten different countries with 98% customer satisfaction.  the developed technology called the Best Value Approach (BVA) is the most licensed intellectual property (IP) at ASU in over 25 years. 

      The BVA has the following characteristics:

      1. Minimize human decision making.
      2. Utilize expertise which makes fewer decisions.
      3. Very similar to the characteristics of automation, minimizes the need to make decisions, manage, direct and control, and allows the expert to mitigate risk instead of passing risk by contract.
      4. Utilizes an expert vendor centric approach instead of a client centric approach utilizing professionals to manage, direct and control. 
      5. The traditional client centric approach utilizing professionals couldn't tell the difference between experts and non-experts.  The system also assumed that all vendors could understand the technical requirements and were the same.  Therefore the only difference was the low price.  The vendors minimize quality and cut cost with no accountability for risk.

      Therefore, we totally agree with your proposal that it is the client centric structure that can't differentiate between vendors, the cutting of price, the lack of accountability, the attempt to move risk by contract and decision making by client's professionals.

      One of my DBA students, Kingsley.  He works for the oil group in Nigeria.  They attempted to cut costs through directed means and cut the cost of platform building by 50%.  Because of the fluctuation of the price of oil, they are trying to cut costs through directed means again.  The vendors are resisting, acting in their own best interests.  Kingsley is proposing that a new approach is needed to get the expert vendor to act in the best interest of the client. 

      Dean Kashiwagi, P.E., PhD



      ------------------------------
      Dean Kashiwagi P.E., M.ASCE
      Director
      Mesa AZ
      ------------------------------



    4. 20.  RE: Q. Why Projects Fail Due To Four Common Causes

      Posted 15 days ago
      I concur. Using books, pdfs and videos to learn about engineering factors and trends is largely a norm. What it really takes to start and end projects as planned is many people who did these things staying a working group.

      One of the e-books The National Society of Leadership and Success offered me states that human communication is designed to fail: that sharing of ideas and values will not work as either party planned, and it will take more to construct a truly mutually-beneficial creation. To that end, human behaviors and biases do pose a bigger obstacle to fulfilling the plan.

      ------------------------------
      Alexander Granato A.M.ASCE
      Student
      Bexley OH
      [email protected]
      ------------------------------



    5. 21.  RE: Q. Why Projects Fail Due To Four Common Causes

      Posted 13 days ago

      Dean, thanks for even more evidence of the frustration of working with people, given our misunderstanding of "How to play nice with others." Moving towards attempts to substitute people's interactions with computer-mechanized tools may seem attractive. However, people will still be involved prior to, during, and after machine, output arrives.

      Thanks, Alexander for the reference, and the opinion you shared below.

      "offered me states that human communication is designed to fail[1]: that sharing of ideas and values will not work as either party planned, and it will take more to construct a truly mutually beneficial creation. To that end, human behaviors and biases do pose a bigger obstacle to fulfilling the plan."

      Actually, the four examples presented in the original post for common project failure were purposely selected for this ongoing dialogue:

      1. Role ambiguity,
      2. Lack of problem validation,
      3. Lack of process versification, and,
      4. The absence of a visible proactive conflict process

      The above four processes have the same LCD, i.e., people who believe their opinions make them the owner of "Truth". . .which initially must be defended at all costs.

      Attempts to replace human interactions with machines will suffer from the same challenges, unless and until the engineering profession reaches out and accepts the challenge of first, learning more about ourselves, and then others who may not "Suit" out style. And coming to realize that we have to stop naming those assigned to a project a "Project Team" until there is evidence to support that assertion.

      Perhaps we might start by "Engineering The Art & Science of Listening.™"

      Stay Healthy!

      Cheers,  Bill p.s. Please consider taking your thoughts on these subjects into the ABET posting area in ASCE Collaborate.

      [1] Each person brings the same "Stuff" to each opportunity for any type of communication. The challenge to one's beliefs begins when they first realize that their "Stuff" is the "Truth" and needs to be defended.



      ------------------------------
      William M. Hayden Jr., Ph.D., P.E., CMQ/OE, F.ASCE
      Buffalo, N.Y.

      "It is never too late to be what you might have been." -- George Eliot 1819 - 1880
      ------------------------------



    6. 22.  RE: Q. Why Projects Fail Due To Four Common Causes

      Posted 12 days ago
      Interesting thoughts all around!  Does human communication solve problems or create them?  Communications can often be a pitfall.  And yet, it is continued communication that is required in order to progress and overcome.  It is only when we give up that a communication breakdown occurs and all is lost.

      [Interviewer:] Several songs on the album, like "Keep Talking" suggest that all problems can be solved through discussion. Do you believe that?

      [Gilmour:] It's more of a wish than a belief. [laughs]
      Keep Talking (Pink Floyd song) - Wikipedia


      ------------------------------
      Chad Morrison P.E., F.ASCE
      Professional Engineer
      Greenville RI
      ------------------------------



    7. 23.  RE: Q. Why Projects Fail Due To Four Common Causes

      Posted 3 days ago
      Q. When will we begin to collectively understand professionally that in the year 2021
           and beyond communication is an essential required part of the engineering skills set?

      A. Until we do, the four(4) examples of project failures above will continue to be treated as just "The cost of doing business."

      We now have more routine generational, cultural, and social issues to include as we strive to make our
      planet's physical environments compatible with the values and beliefs of others.

      Q = CIA is no longer the best way to estimate what is needed.

      But of course, I may be wrong.

      Stay Healthy!
      Cheers,
      Bill



      ------------------------------
      William M. Hayden Jr., Ph.D., P.E., CMQ/OE, F.ASCE
      Buffalo, N.Y.

      "It is never too late to be what you might have been." -- George Eliot 1819 - 1880
      ------------------------------