Is your project failing?


Actionable steps to get back on track

to succeed!



By Frank Murphy

Texas, USA


Projects fail in both traditional disciplines and IT at an alarming rate.  One consideration is knowing how we define success when we start the journey.  More importantly, do the people doing the work know the goals? This presentation will go through steps to ensure you have a better chance of success by looking at ways to define and present plans, key results, and which ones we should care about, make things happen, and look at who is impacted.

We often talk about success, but it is easy to blame others when projects slide in scope, budget, and time.  There are plenty of methodologies, but the goals won’t be met if you don’t use and emphasize a process. We should never limit ourselves to one approach. Agile, traditional methods, and hybrid all have potent tools.    An overlooked essential technique is change management, which works.

Join me in looking at a program with multiple workstreams, stakeholders with different views and goals, and a floating budget.  This journey will look at how you can approach the program systematically to at least hedge your bets towards success.


The first question to answer is who is in charge of the project? If the Project Manager role is not clear, many challenges will arise.

Projects are failing across all industries. A statistic that should alarm project managers is the failure rate; 70% of all projects fail to deliver (31 Pivotal project management statistics for 2021, 2021). Although this percentage can be abstract and denial of our project being a victim is commonplace, the fact that 9.9% of every project dollar is wasted should get your attention. Here are some more detailed statistics. 37% of the failures are due to unclear project goals, and 75% of IT respondents think their project is doomed to failure. Budget overruns are cited by 55% of project managers as a reason for project failure, but the exciting part is what causes success, or at least increases the probability of success. One aspect is sponsors. Sponsors that are engaged have 40% more successful projects. Another perspective is projected plans from organizations with project management practices meet goals at 89% versus 34% with no plan.

What does project failure mean? How would you define the failure or success of your particular project? It seems simple enough – but is failure a function of just being late? As 55% of project managers mentioned as a cause, is it a case of being over budget? Interestingly, this statistic is how much budget overrun is not disclosed. Is failure a case of the objectives not being met as initially described? Each of these options can be true – or false. What does your primary stakeholder consider a failure? Were there performance indicators to ensure the project was tracked as it progressed and early warning signs were provided? How often do you report out?

What are some statistics about failure? Some statistics:  50% of PMs state they do not meet stated deliverables; one in six IT projects has a 200% cost overrun, less than 1/3 of projects completed successfully in 2013; 17% of large IT projects fail to the extent that they threaten organization existence; and 70% of surveyed organizations suffered at least one project failure in the past 12 months (Project failure rates, facts, and causes, 2022)

I’ve given you a laundry list of questions and statistics, but only to get the conversation going. How would you discover if the correct answer for your project is suitable or that you should be making adjustments if you hope to be successful?

The objective is to show a framework that can be duplicated, is scalable, and works. The framework we will cover involves four major components. These components are stakeholders, goals;  change; and design thinking. Each part may sound familiar, but a different perspective may give additional tools and techniques to get a project back on track or allow planning in another way to make your next project more efficient and with more favorable results. Here are some working definitions and perspectives so we can align on these components.


To read entire paper, click here

Editor’s note: Second Editions are previously published papers that have continued relevance in today’s project management world, or which were originally published in conference proceedings or in a language other than English.  Original publication acknowledged; authors retain copyright.  This paper was originally presented at the 14th UT Dallas PM Symposium in May 2022.  It is republished here with the permission of the authors and conference organizers.

How to cite this paper: Murphy, F. (2022). Is your project failing? Actionable steps to get back on track to succeed!; presented at the 14th University of Texas at Dallas Project Management Symposium in Richardson, TX, USA in May 2022; republished in the PM World Journal, Vol. XI, Issue XI, November. Available online at https://pmworldlibrary.net/wp-content/uploads/2022/11/pmwj123-Nov2022-Murphy-is-your-project-failing.pdf

About the Author

Frank Murphy

Texas, USA


Frank Murphy retired as a CMSgt after 30 years in the USAF.  His career involved travel to the seven continents, numerous countries, and involvement with most military operations that needed airlift.  Frank completed a DBA in Management, focusing on remote working, but his passion remains with making projects happen.  He currently teaches project management and manages a program implementing marketing technology for a Fortune 100.  Frank lives in the Hill Country near San Antonio and loves the area.  He can be contacted at dbafrank@outlook.com



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