In a time where Project Managers (PM) have to do more with less, minimizing project failure is critical; however, without project failure PMs (especially individuals early in their career) won’t learn. This article is meant to provide you with 3 reasons why project failure is good (within reason of course).
Learn (Upfront) What Can Go Wrong
Early in my PM career, I was faced with hunting for business engineering opportunities and building business cases for Senior Management to approve. With my first project approved, I mobilized a team to execute a global initiative where I would introduce Smart Forms (keep in mind this is back in the 90s). These forms will allow end-users to type information directly onto Adobe PDFs vs printing and handwriting (resulting in data entry error).
Being a new PM and excited about the initiative, I focused on execution and change management techniques but never asked the critical question “What Can Go Wrong With This Project?” Half way into the project something went terribly wrong. I became aware that the Smart Forms would not work in regions that had limited or slow internet access (remember people need to download the forms). In those regions, it was faster to fax a form to an end-user and have them fax it back.
As a result, the estimated savings reduced by more than half and the project was slowed down to be implemented based on regional readiness. It later turned out that one of my team-members had thought about this issue during the define phase but never raised it as an issue because he thought nothing would go wrong.
From that point forward, I tend to