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Project Management

Why Do Projects Fail – 5 “I”s Project Managers Must Know

Reading Time: 4 minutes


Are you a engineering manager or a project manager in a startup or a software product company? Do you wonder why some projects are a big success while many other fail to meet the objectives? We at Global Management Mentors observed there are 5 “I”s that could lead to project failures. We have consistently observed that if managers focus on these 5 “I”s it increases the chances of success exponentially.


“ Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” – Winston Churchill


Incompetent Team

The difference between success and failure is a great team.. The first “I” might be that you have a incompetent team. Incompetency need not necessarily mean that you team does not have the required skills but it could mean that you do not have a charged up,engaged & motivated team that works together collaboratively to meet the larger objectives of the project. Try to find out the problem with the team. Are you inspiring the team enough for them to get charged up? the benefits of a group mind is exponentially higher than a few high IQ individuals.

Some questions that could help you find the team issues

  • Are you setting a positive example? Are you a collaborative leader or are you being authoritative?
  • Are you resolving the team conflicts or have you left with unresolved conflicts?
  • Are you doing enough to get the team together and collaborate? are you having enough team building activities?
  • Are you communicating enough?


“If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself.” –Henry Ford


Inadequate Stakeholder Management

The second big “I” is around inadequate stakeholder management. This is one of the most important aspects of project success. As a manager you must understand all your stakeholders and their roles in the project. It is critical for you to understand how each of them effect your project. You must publish a formal plan and strategy on how you will manage and influence each of them. If your stakeholders are disengaged or they lack trust in you as a manager , your project is bound to fail sooner than later.

Some questions that can help you identify a problem in this area are

  • Have you identified all your stakeholders?
  • Have you created a stakeholder map?
  • Do you have a formal plan to manage and communicate with them?
  • Are you engaged enough with the stakeholders?


“Tell me and I’ll forget, show me and I may remember, involve me and I’ll understand.” ~ Chinese Proverb


Insufficient Communication

The third “I” relates to how you communicate as a manager. You must have a formal communication plan that addresses all the needs of your teams, stakeholders, sponsors & customers? As a project manager it is in your best interest that you are transparent and open in your communications. You must ensure you establish a cadence of communications and you communicate the right kind of information with your stakeholders.

Some questions that can help you identify a problem in this area are

  • Have you identified all your communication audience?
  • Have you created a formal communication plan with a cadence and status reporting?
  • Do you have  1-1 meetings with your team members and other important stakeholders


“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place” George Bernard Shaw


Ineffective Risk Management

The fourth “I” brings down the most important and often ignored part of project management. That is proper risk planning. Every project manager must be adept at risk assessment & planning. In order to understand risks for a project that you do not have experience in, you must speak to others who have experience in this area. You must have your risk plan reviewed by experts and it must be communicated regularly with the stakeholders. Ineffective risk planning leads to a project disasters as we observed at Global Management Mentors.

Some questions that can help you identify a problem in this area are

  • Have you identified all your risks?
  • Have prioritized the risks with a risk probability, contingency plan & mitigation plans?
  • Do you track risks regularly and communicate with stakeholders


“The biggest risk is not taking any risk… In a world that’s changing really quickly, the only strategy that is guaranteed to fail is not taking risks.”– Mark Zuckerberg


Inefficient Time Management

The last “I” is around how you manage your time. A manager is usually hard pressed for time , he is overwhelmed with many things that need his immediate attention. You must manage your time efficiently by focusing on your objectives and weeding out what is unnecessary. Learn the art of brutal prioritization and  delegation. Not having enough time will soon lead to stress and project failures.

Some questions that can help you identify a problem in this area are

  • Are you prioritizing your day or do you go about it as it comes?
  • Do you have trusted lieutenants to whom you can delegate work or do you try to handle it all ?
  • Do you use formal methods like Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) to focus on your objectives?


“The key is in not spending time, but in investing it.” — Stephen R. Cove



As a manager it will help you to stay focused on these aspects that can impact your project outcomes negatively. While every aspect of planning has an impact on the project’s success , we found that these are some of the areas that are not apparent immediately . If you are new manager it will help you to have a mentor your trust and respect. Spend time to gain formal project management skills and talk to your mentor for guidance.


  1. Some cool tips on team management – read here
  2. Must read on OKRs – Measure What Matters by John Doer
  3. Take a great course on OKRs  that we recommend from Udemy here
  4. Reach out to us at mymentor@globalmanagementmentors.com for any advice


The authors are senior managers at startups and product development companies. They come with extensive experience in leadership and management of global engineering teams to deliver high quality software products. Each of them are extremely passionate about these topics . They mentor and train project managers on leadership and management.


  1. Bobby Smith

    Thanks for the great info! I think the communication and time management issues are definitely a couple of the biggest issues for many projects failing. Hopefully my team and I can learn from this article and be better!

    • Management Guru

      Thank you for your comments


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