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Common Reasons Behind Project Failure in a Team Environment

You’ve been assigned to work on a team project. In your first meeting, you get to know your team members a bit better and establish what tasks need to get done. After the meeting, you set out to work on some of those tasks. 

But before you know it, things start to fall apart. Essential tasks have not been done, leading to missed deadlines. The tasks that have been completed only make up a small fraction of the total work that needs doing. All team members are left dissatisfied as they blame each other for the project’s failure. 

Findings from the KPMG Project Management Survey 2010 show that 70% of companies have experienced at least one project failure in the past 12 months, with over 50% of companies stating that they failed to consistently accomplish what they set out to achieve. 

There are many benefits to collaboration in team projects, yet we don’t see these benefits as countless team projects lead to failure. So, what can be done to prevent such failures? Here are some common reasons for project failure: 

Team projects fail in a business setting due to a range of reasons concerning people, processes and communications.
Teamwork is important to get a business project done in time, but how can you avoid many of the pitfalls that lead to project failure?


Scope creep 

In project management, scope creep is when a project’s scope changes, extending or “creeping” beyond what was originally agreed upon. 

Altering what needs to be done midway through a team project only serves to complicate things, making it more difficult for the team to complete the project in time. 

Scope creep can occur because parameters weren’t defined well from the outset of a project. It could also be because people both internal and external of the team add on objectives that were not part of the original project. Even vague and open-ended requirements can contribute to the scope creep of a project. 

According to Quay Consulting, if the scope is unclear more than 15% into a project, it’s unlikely that it will get back on track

Unrealistic expectations 

It’s easy for assumptions to be made that tasks can be done quickly, when in fact, they end up taking longer than expected. This has a knock-on effect on the other tasks that need to get completed, especially if this occurs nearer the start of a team project. 

Everyone works at different paces, so it’s important to be realistic with what team members can accomplish and in what time frame. By attempting to match expectations as close to reality, you can gain a consensus with your team about the ongoing progress and expected delivery of the project. 


Lack of resource planning 

If your team spends too much time project planning, in terms of what needs to be done, you may forget to plan for resources. 

Resource planning involves allocating tasks to team members based on their capacity and skillsets in order to maximise efficiency. This is especially important if your team is working on a budget and using valuable resources. 

To make sure that all team members know exactly what they should be working on, figure out how many people are needed to complete a particular task and for how long – this ensures that one person is not left doing all the tasks while the others do nothing. 

Find out what facilities are needed, such as office space and computers. Can the knowledge resources required for this project be accessed easily? Spot any other limitations so that you have a resource plan in place for your team project. 

No risk management 

Risk management is a process that allows risks to be understood and managed proactively. By minimising threats and maximising opportunities and outcomes, success is optimised. 

Every team project carries a degree of uncertainty and therefore risk. Risk management aims to reduce uncertainty to a tolerable level by putting actions into place that help when the project does not go to plan. 

To mitigate risk, employing risk management can address issues of uncertainty from the get-go, boosting a project’s likelihood of success. This can be done by creating a targeted and relevant risk log that assesses risk adequately through the entire span of a team project. 


Unclear goals and objectives 

According to executive leaders in the 2017 Global Project Management Survey by PMI, the primary cause of project failure was a lack of clearly defined objectives and milestones to measure progress (37%). 

Your team project is more likely to fail if you begin working without any clear objectives or goals. This is because your whole team doesn’t know what’s being accomplished and whether the project is on track to succeed. 

Make sure to create well-defined and reasonable goals that can be achieved by everyone on the team throughout the entire project. 

Lack of project visibility 

Project visibility refers to the ability to see how a project is performing, including resource allocation and potential risks. 

Even with a project plan in place, the lack of visibility when it comes to project transparency of task status and document management can leave your team confused as they try to work on the project. 

Project visibility is important because it allows team members to set realistic expectations on the progress of the project. 

When a goal hasn’t been met, or a deadline is going to be missed, be upfront with others on your team about the situation. Visibility creates accountability, allowing your team to make decisions that drive the project forward towards success, rather than being stuck in failure. 

Communication gaps 

Even though you are working as a team during this project, there will be instances where team members have to conduct research or complete a task on their own. 

Clear communication is essential to relay vital information about the project to each other. Explaining what you know clearly and concisely can reduce communication gaps that may arise. 

If there are moments where you have concerns about a particular decision related to the project or are struggling to complete a specific task, being honest with the team by letting them know will improve communication in the long run. 

By explaining your worries, the team will be able to give some guidance that can help you out. By keeping up good communication within the team, in turn, you can help anyone else having issues concerning the project. 

Take action against these common causes so that your team project succeeds!
Clear, concise communication is key to good teamwork and ensuring project success!

In Conclusion 

When it comes down to your team project, recognising these common causes and taking action against them can allow you to stay ‘on time and on budget’. 

That being said, it’s inevitable that there will be some bumps along the road while working on your team project. Some reasons for failure can be out of your control, while other reasons can be fixed by addressing issues upfront with the rest of the team. 

Team projects are successful by not letting controllable issues perpetuate and negatively impact the team’s performance towards the project. 

As quick fixes typically prove to be ineffective and make things even worse, spend time dealing with these problems so everyone can put in their best work to get the project done on time. 

At Ceed, we provide support to students and employees who are involved in team projects. Visit our website to find out more! 

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