Mastering Project Management: Overcoming the Top 5 Common Failures

18th July 2023

Based on a comprehensive survey conducted across the UK, it has been revealed that approximately 31% of business projects experience failure, resulting in an estimated cost of £250 billion to the economy of the United Kingdom. The primary reason behind these failures can be attributed to the inherent uncertainty that accompanies projects. Where there is uncertainty, the potential for complications and setbacks inevitably arises. 

During this blog, we will look at the five most common issues project managers come across, and suggested solutions. Helping to ensure project successes.

  1. Have Clearly Defined Project Goals

According to the Project Management Institute, the most prevalent factor contributing to project failure, accounting for 37% of failures across various industries, is the absence of clear objectives. It is logical to assume that without well-defined goals and objectives, strategizing to achieve them becomes challenging. 

Regardless of the industry you operate in, the planning phase of a project holds immense significance. It establishes the project’s objectives and outlines the approach to accomplish them. However, due to tight deadlines, project planning is often hurried, neglecting essential details. Consequently, the project team loses direction.  

To address this issue, consider transforming the planning phase into a mini project itself. Begin by setting larger objectives and then break them down into smaller goals that must be achieved along the way. Once you have a critical path mapped out for completion, identify key performance indicators (KPIs) that will measure your progress. 

By the end of the project planning phase, you should be able to provide answers to the following questions:  

  • What is the goal of the project? 
  • Which KPIs will be used to assess performance towards the goal? 
  • How long will it take to accomplish the goal? 
  • What will be the projected cost? 
  • What additional resources, whether human or technological, are necessary to reach the goal? 
  1. What is Expectation Alignment Disorder, and How to Manage It 

Another prevalent issue in project management is known as Expectation Alignment Disorder (EAD). This arises when a project fails to meet the expectations of its stakeholders, including internal teams, contractors, external suppliers, senior management, and, most importantly, clients. 

In most cases, EAD stems from inadequate communication, and once it occurs, it can have severe consequences for the project. It may lead to decreased engagement, strained relationships, and overall poor project performance. 

Fortunately, overcoming EAD is possible by proactively aligning and managing the expectations of project stakeholders right from the beginning. This process should commence before the project commences and continue throughout its duration, even as changes are made to plans and requirements. 

To align expectations effectively, it is crucial to provide stakeholders with the necessary level of detail to fulfill their roles in the project successfully. This includes sharing information such as project outlines, key performance indicators (KPIs), deadlines, available resources, and budgetary considerations at each stage. Additionally, stakeholders should be encouraged to raise any inquiries or concerns they may have, promoting an open and transparent communication environment. 

  1. Project Scope Creep

Scope creep is a term that instills fear in the hearts of project managers universally, and for good reason. Nearly half of all projects encounter some level of scope creep, leading to only 57% completing within the allocated budget and 51% finishing on schedule. 

The scope of a project refers to the work required to achieve its objectives. When the scope starts to expand beyond its initial boundaries, it often leads to changes in project requirements throughout its life-cycle. Consequently, delays, obstacles, budgetary constraints, and dissatisfied stakeholders become common issues.  

As a project manager, it is your responsibility to effectively manage scope creep. This can be accomplished through the following actions:  

  • Engaging all relevant stakeholders from the project’s inception. 
  • Comparing the actual work completed with the established baseline scope. 
  • Identifying the cause and extent of any deviations from the baseline scope. 
  • Managing and making informed decisions regarding change requests. 
  • Updating the project’s overall scope and cost baseline upon approval of change requests. 
  • Thoroughly documenting and communicating any changes that occur. 
  • By implementing these measures, you can mitigate the impact of scope creep and maintain better control over your project’s outcomes. 
  1. Clear Lines of Communication

While it may seem beneficial to have multiple communication channels for project stakeholders, the reality is that, in project communication, less is often more. The presence of numerous emails, multiple instant messaging platforms, and countless client phone calls can easily result in miscommunication. This fragmented approach to communication leaves only a few individuals with complete knowledge of the latest information, updates, and requested changes, which can ultimately jeopardize the project’s success. 

As a rule of thumb, all communication should flow through a project manager and the point of contact at the client. Meeting notes should always be shared with the team after project update calls to ensure all team members are updated.  

  1. Focus on the Big Picture

Amidst the numerous pitfalls awaiting project managers, it is understandable that many end up micromanaging every aspect of a project. However, instead of ensuring the project stays on course, this approach can cause them to lose sight of the broader picture. Consequently, the project loses its direction, and the ultimate goals and objectives are overlooked. 

Micromanaging a project also breeds frustration and distrust within the project team, leading to unproductive and even obstructive behavior that severely impacts their performance. 

In project management, there exists a significant distinction between micromanagement and attention to detail. As a project manager, it is essential to place trust in the right individuals to carry out their designated tasks and provide them with the necessary tools to excel in their roles. 


In conclusion, successful project management requires avoiding the pitfalls of micromanagement while maintaining attention to detail. Finding the right balance is crucial to prevent losing sight of the project’s bigger picture and missing key goals. Effective communication, aligning expectations, and proper planning are essential to navigate challenges such as scope creep and communication breakdowns. Trusting and empowering team members with the necessary tools fosters a collaborative environment, boosting morale and driving project success. By embracing a holistic approach, project managers can deliver results that meet stakeholders’ expectations and drive business growth.

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