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Yikes—My Project is A Failure!

Hooray, at least you recognize you’re in trouble! So many people are afraid of a failing project that they hide the inevitable. We know we’re sinking but afraid to admit it.


Like many others, I learned early on that failure is bad—no one wants an F for a grade. It means I didn’t work hard enough and it’s punishable by getting grounded, no extracurricular activities, and much more study time. After all, if I’d only worked harder, this wouldn’t have happened—right?


Well maybe that’s true in school but not so much in the business world. Failing isn’t bad; it’s how you handle it that really matters. If you sweep it under the rug, there is no value from the lesson. On the other hand, if we put it out there and analyze it, we shouldn’t make the same mistakes (but I might make new ones).


An honest post-mortem is crucial in pinpointing and fixing underlying issues:


Why did the project fail?


  • Did I not have enough people or money?
  • Did I mismanage my time, or did I not anticipate that life happens, and people go on vacation, decisions take time, and nothing moves as fast as I’d like?
  • Was the organization really on board for this project to work or was I fighting an uphill battle all along and didn’t stop to realize it?


It’s not a blame game—understand where the process broke down, so you can manage it in the future.


What could I (and the team) have done differently to prevent it from failing?


  • Did I over -promise?
  • Did I escalate issues early enough?
  • Did I hold everyone accountable for getting the work done on time (including me)?


How does the organization react to a failure?


  • Is failure viewed as a training tool and everyone moves on from there or are people fired/demoted? (I guess I should’ve known that before I took on this role!)


What have I learned from the situation?


Failure taught me resiliency, grace and empathy….and determination to get it right next time!


Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently~~ Henry Ford


There are many books and discussions on solid project management out there to help keep you out of trouble. Creating and hiring for a culture that doesn’t blame, but fixes and moves on, is much more productive. We can assist in getting you there; we’ve got great tools and great partners. Call me so we can talk about our failures and what we’re doing about them!