Eight common causes of project failure

Shortly after being re-elected in 2001, British Prime Minister Tony Blair defined a United Kingdom equivalent of the President's Management Agenda, but with more pronounced political overtones.

After a successful campaign, Blair was concerned about his government's ability to carry out the work he had touted, said Bob Assirati, chief executive of the Central Computer and Telecommunications Agency in the United Kingdom's Office of Government Commerce.

"He wanted to put much more emphasis on demonstrating he was delivering his promises," Assirati said. The goal is to "make the civil service as effective at delivery as it is at formulating policy."

As part of that initiative, the office worked with the United Kingdom's National Audit Office (the British version of the General Accounting Office) to identify a set of common causes of failure in project management.

1. Lack of a clear link between a project and the organization's strategic priorities.

2. Lack of clear ownership and leadership by senior managers.

3. Lack of effective engagement with stakeholders.

4. Lack of skills and a proven approach to project and risk management.

5. Lack of understanding of and contact with industry at senior levels in the organization.

6. Evaluation of proposals based on initial price rather than long-term value.

7. Too little attention to breaking development and implementation into manageable steps.

8. Inadequate resources and skills to deliver the final project.

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