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Beyond the numbers: uncovering the main drivers of project failure

Updated: Jun 10, 2023

Beyond the numbers: uncovering the main drivers of project failure
Beyond the numbers: uncovering the main drivers of project failure

Project failure is a common occurrence in organizations and businesses, and it can have serious consequences for the company's reputation, finances, and performance. According to a study by the Project Management Institute (PMI), one in three projects fail to meet their objectives, and only 43% of projects are completed within the original budget and timeline. This blog will explore the main drivers behind project failure and supplement our discussion with data and statistics.

Poor Project Planning

Poor project planning is one of the primary drivers of project failure, resulting from inadequate or incomplete scoping, unrealistic deadlines, and insufficient resource allocation. According to PMI's report, 37% of projects fail due to poor planning. Incomplete scoping, in particular, can lead to scope creep, where the project's scope expands beyond the original objectives, leading to delays and cost overruns.

Ineffective Communication

Ineffective communication is another primary driver of project failure. Communication breakdowns can occur between team members, stakeholders, and project managers. According to a survey by Wellingtone, 50% of project managers cited poor communication as the primary reason for project failure. Poor communication can result in misunderstandings, delays, and errors, leading to missed deadlines and cost overruns.

Lack of Leadership

Lack of leadership can also contribute to project failure. When project managers lack the necessary leadership skills, they may need help motivating and engaging team members, setting priorities, and making decisions. According to a survey by PMI, 18% of projects fail due to a lack of leadership. Additionally, a study by McKinsey found that 70% of change management projects fail due to leadership and cultural issues.

Inadequate Resource Management

Inadequate resource management can lead to project failure, particularly in complex logistics and supply chain management projects. According to a survey by Wellingtone, 28% of projects fail due to inadequate resource management. Resource management can result in overburdened team members, delays, and cost overruns. Project managers must allocate resources effectively and efficiently, ensuring that team members have the necessary tools and support to complete their tasks.

Inadequate Risk Management

Inadequate risk management is another critical driver of project failure. Risk management involves identifying, assessing, and mitigating risks throughout the project lifecycle. According to a survey by PMI, 17% of projects fail due to inadequate risk management. Failure to identify and manage risks can result in unforeseen events that can cause delays, cost overruns, and even project failure.


Project failure can have severe consequences for organizations and businesses, but understanding the main drivers behind project failure can help project managers avoid common pitfalls. Poor project planning, ineffective communication, lack of leadership, inadequate resource management, and inadequate risk management are all significant drivers of project failure. By addressing these factors proactively, project managers can improve their chances of project success and deliver successful projects that meet their objectives.


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