Taxonomy of Project Failure – Risks

Taxonomy of Project Failure – Risks

Experience suggests there are many ways to project failure due to our project management actions, this does not include the riskiness of the effort in general that comes with the uncertainty associated with projects – these are not operations.  Projects by definition have uncertain components, this is especially true in product development and especially in software product development.  That taxonomy would look much different than the one below as we could have, for example, material, processes, people, technical, measurements and many other ways to breakdown or categorize the failures.  However, project management is there to make things better, or it should be. It is there to improve our probability of success, not bring in additional potential project failure modes that must be navigated.  It seems all too often what really happens is poor project management does not make the situation better, but snatches defeat out of the jaws of success.  Below find a breakdown of some of those failures. Knowing these, can help us avoid burning our hand on the metaphorical stove, again, and again, and again….

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  1. Human Resources

    1. specific skills missing
    2. sufficient hours available
    3. undefined areas of responsibility
    4. no team growth / training plans
    5. team members on many projects
    6. little or no continuous learning in the organization
    7. labor instability (competition or attrition)
  2. Scope Management

    1. unclear scope
    2. poor scope control
    3. no configuration or change management
    4. insufficient time in planning scope
    5. too much time spent arguing over scope
    6. sponsors and stakeholder role and involvement unclear
    7. unresolved conflicting perspectives about scope and no escalation plans
    8. inappropriate selection of strategy to achieve the scope
    9. poor requirements elicitation
    10. poor requirements management
    11. office politics
    12. lack of trade-off consideration
    13. poor match of scope to available time and resources for the project
    14. rush to produce final product ( all requirements up front)
    15. lack of prioritization of scope contents
    16. no confirmation scope has been achieved (verification) until the close of project
    17. insufficient team or SME participation
    18. unchecked or vetted assumptions
  3. Time Management

    1. formal time reporting
    2. organizations time reporting processing
    3. overly optimistic task scheduling
    4. no accounting for task variance (point source task duration estimates)
    5. missing tasks and task dependencies
    6. poorly identified and quantified metrics for monitoring
    7. insufficient or lack of monitoring of metrics little or no follow up on the schedule
    8. lack of proactive actions taken when the schedule appears to be slipping
    9. poorly defined activities including what constitutes success for activity
    10. missing expertise in scope decomposition to tasks
    11. duration estimated from inexperienced sources
    12. poor use of historical record for estimates
    13. not adapting schedule based upon performance metrics
  4. Cost Management

    1. no cost baselines
    2. no change management and change control
    3. slow reporting
    4. insufficient cost monitoring
    5. no use of earned value management or similar technique
    6. currency exchange fluctuations
  5. Quality Management

    1. insufficient verification and testing
    2. unbridled optimism
    3. understood expectation
    4. insufficient reviews
    5. poor prototype use plan
    6. overly optimistic perspective
    7. key product attributes and metrics not identified
    8. key project attributes and metrics not identified
    9. poor prototype parts handling
    10. missing or ineffective configuration management
  6. Communications Management

    1. undefined areas of responsibility
    2. unidentified stakeholders and sponsors
    3. false stakeholders acting as stakeholders
    4. no or poorly articulated communications plan
    5. poorly executed or no escalation plans
    6. poor project reviews
    7. poorly executed and insufficient project reviews
    8. team dispersed across the globe without remediation
    9. poorly conducted project meetings
    10. no note taking during meeting
    11. no decisions made as a result of meetings
    12. unidentified communications channels
    13. mis-use of (or unaccounted for) informal communications
    14. too many communications channels
    15. organizational structure complexity
    16. no connection between sponsor and areas of priority
    17. multiple sponsors
    18. undefined method of communication
    19. poor listening skills
    20. poor recording skills (notes)
    21. meeting management
    22. team hygiene
    23. excessive politics
    24. political speak (obfuscation communication)
    25. closed environment to open discourse
    26. unspecified status reporting periods
    27. unknown status report contents (metrics)
  7. Risk Management

    1. insufficient vetting of strategy for the project and product
    2. no risk management strategy or plan
    3. poorly communicated risk strategy or plan
    4. no analysis (statistical) of depending risks
    5. insufficient time spent uncovering the risks
    6. missing talent within the team to identify risks
    7. risk log is populated but never reviewed
    8. little or no monitoring during execution
    9. failure to promptly respond to team members discussing what they see as incoming failure
    10. poor use of historical record
    11. lack of systems thinking (future consequences)
    12. insufficient or no metrics identified for specific risks
    13. unknown responsibility for monitoring metric that predicts imminent failure
    14. no quantification of risks
    15. no qualification of risks
    16. risk identification focused on large unlikely events
    17. risk identification hyper focused on easy to solve potential risks
    18. insufficient dissemination of previous risks and failures to the team
    19. overwhelming optimism of the team and organization
    20. no contingency budget
    21. randomly generated contingency budgets
    22. contingency budgets not allocated to specific risks
    23. hyper focus on one risk category (ex. technical) to the exclusion of the many other areas
    24. poor match of risk to risk mitigation (Avoid, Accept, Reduce, Transfer)
    25. poorly executed risk mitigation
    26. disassociation of risk from stakeholder or sponsor
  8. Procurement Management

    1. insufficient supplier critique during selection
    2. insufficiently skilled supplier (picked because of cost only)
    3. insufficient project manager involvement in supplier selection
    4. insufficient identification and follow up on key metrics
    5. poorly defined area of responsibility with the supplier team
    6. little or no verification to ensure contract closure at project closure
  9. Stakeholder Management

    1. poor stakeholder identification
    2. insufficient sponsor engagement
    3. false stakeholders not addressed
    4. poor stakeholder expectation management
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