Dealing with Failure

Sometimes the market changes and the product is no longer viable. Sometimes the budget or time constraints are untenable. Sometimes it is simply a case that somebody has made a mistake.

Learning to deal with project failure is an important step on the route to becoming a competent project manager.

Are project failures a responsibility or a fault?

Your boss is unsupportive, the customer keeps changing their mind, staff are undermotivated but … don’t start blaming people rather than causes because you will learn nothing. Identifying causes will rescue you from the trap of self-blame. When a project fails, it might be the responsibility of the project manager but not their fault.

Who takes responsibility for project failure?

The project is your responsibility therefore you should apologise to those who invested their time, money and energy in it. Take professional responsibility for actions and results but do not over-apologise. State the causes for failure, do not lay blame, do not grovel. Your stakeholders will respect you more for it.

Recognising why a project has failed helps you avoid failure next time. And sharing the lessons with others demonstrates that failures are not an end but a process in themself.

You must be able to put the project behind you and engage with the next project. Moving on to the next project will demopnstrate your resillience, energy and dedication to your job.

Facts of Life

It is a fact of life that not every project succeeds but how do you deal with the failure of your project?.

Identify causes, not people apologise learn from the failure move on

Identifying causes, apologising, learning and moving on will turn project failure into a fruitful process that can provide material for the growth of the project team, project manager and the organisation as a whole.