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Episode 239: Top 3 Reasons Why Projects Fail (and 5 Steps to Fight it!) (Free)

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This episode is sponsored by The PM PrepCast for The PMP® Exam:
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What would you say are the top 3 reasons why projects fail?

Of course there are many lists out there. Some give you the top 10 reasons, some the top 7 and they include things like lack of senior management involvement, unrealistic expectations, inexperienced project managers, improper delegation of task and responsibilities, failure to communicate and act as a team, or lack of resources.

But none of these made it to the list of the top 3 reasons why project fail from Yaron Sinai of Elementool (http://www.elementool.com). And just to give you a little preview here... “Poor requirements” is at the top of his list. And yes, while we review his top 3 reasons in detail, I think the much more interesting bit of the interview is the 2nd half, when we open Yaron’s book The Project Management Formula.

In this 120-page book Yaron mostly discusses many best practices and gives excellent advice on managing your projects. However, in our interview we focused on just the last 15 pages where he outlines 5 steps that will help you avoid project failure. The first one is all about defining project objectives and I’ll let him discuss the rest in the interview.

Below are the first few pages of the transcript. The complete transcript is available to Premium subscribers only. 

Podcast Introduction

Cornelius Fichtner: Hello and welcome to Episode #239. This is The Project Management Podcast™ at www.pm-podcast.com and I am Cornelius Fichtner. Nice to have you with us.

So what would you say are the top 3 reasons why projects fail? Of course, there are many lists out there. Some give you the top 10 reasons, some the top 7 and they include things like lack of senior management involvement, unrealistic expectations, inexperienced project managers, improper delegation of tasks and responsibilities, failure to communicate and act as a team or lack of resources.

But none of these made into the top 3 resources why projects fail from Yaron Sinai of Elementool. And just to give you a little preview here, poor requirements is at the top of his list. And yes, while we will be reviewing his top 3 reasons in detail, I think the much more interesting part of the interview is the second half when we open Yaron’s book: “The Project Management Formula”. In this 120-page book, Yaron mostly discusses many best practices and gives excellent advice on managing your projects.

However in our interview, we focused on just the last 15 pages where he outlines 5 steps that will help you to avoid project failure. The first one is all about defining project objectives and I will let him discuss the rest in the interview. Enjoy!

Podcast Interview

Female voice: The Project Management Podcast’s feature Interview: Today with Yaron Sinai, CEO and founder of Elementool.

Cornelius Fichtner: Hello Yaron and welcome to The Project Management Podcast™!

Yaron Sinai: Hi, hello! Thank you for having me.

Cornelius Fichtner: Absolutely! Now you are the author of the book: “The Project Management Formula – The 5 Steps to Complete Your Project on Time” and we’re going to open up that book a little later on during our interview here. But we want to start somewhere completely different.

In fact in an article that you wrote titled “The Top 3 Reasons Why Projects Fail”. Can you tell me a little bit more about how you came up with these top 3 reasons? Why are these the number 1, 2 and 3 reasons why projects fail?

Yaron Sinai: Well, I’ve been in the project management industry for almost 15 years and I have a company that we have a project management system so we’ve worked with thousands of companies and we help them with their project management process.

And overtime, you start to see patterns in the way projects are run, right? And you start to see that. There are a few major reasons why projects fail. These top 3 reasons are the most common ones and you see it like very, very often. When you encounter projects then you see their process. As you said, the 3 main reasons are poor requirements, missing priorities and the last one is the scope creep.

Cornelius Fichtner: Okay! Well, let’s go through them one by one and you can tell us a little bit more about what you have found out in the field about those. So you say the number one reason why projects are poor requirements. What do you mean by ‘poor requirements’?

Yaron Sinai: Well, poor requirements means when you start a project, usually, well let’s say you have a client and you have your team that’s supposed to develop the project for the client and also it could apply for in-house projects when there is a team of developers that works on some kind of a software project or products for the company. People want to start to get to the coding right away because they feel like if they’re not coding something, they’re wasting time. As a result they don’t stop and plan what they’re actually going to build. So the requirements phase, that’s the first phase that you open the projects with is and in this phase, you build some kind of a project plan and you define the features that you’re going to develop.

Now when you define a feature, you want to get into details of each feature, how things are going to work. Even if it is a, let’s say a website, the different pages and the design of the pages and it’s more like a project plan. If you don’t do that properly, you start developing the project.

And then after a while, you realize that that’s not what the customer wanted and you need to go back and make changes or sometimes even start everything all over again. So the result of that is time waste and money is being wasted because you need to do things instead of just doing them once, yu need to do it over and over again.

Cornelius Fichtner: Out of the complete time in a project, how much would you say is required to work on these requirements to make sure that they are properly defined? Is it 10% of my project time should be spent there? Is it 25% of the time? Do you have an answer even for this? Can we reduce it to a percentage like that?

Yaron Sinai: I think you can, well, depends on the complexity of the project and the features that are being developed. But I would say between to 10 to 25% of that.

Cornelius Fichtner: Okay!

Yaron Sinai: Yeah.

Cornelius Fichtner: So quite a sizable amount. I mean if you have a very complex project, it’s probably going to be more like 25% right?

Yaron Sinai: Yes and well, I talk about it more in my book is the design, the requirements process is you can also find bugs in the requirements before you even start coding the features and that will save you…there was a research that found out that it takes five times longer to solve bugs during the development process than during the requirement process.

So it’s a process where you define the requirements and then you do a requirement review and you sit with your client or the people that’s supposed to use the product that you developed and you go over it and you think about ways to fix it or things, ways that things might go wrong. It’s a process. So yeah, it takes about 25%. Once you have that ready, all you need to do is just go and start coding or building the product.

Cornelius Fichtner: Alright! So problem #1, poor requirements. Problem #2 you say is missing priorities. Tell me a little bit more what you mean about missing priorities. What type of priorities are we talking about here?

Above are the first few pages of the transcript. The complete PDF transcript is available to Premium subscribers only.

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