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How to Move Past a Failed Project and Achieve Future Success

Updated: Mar 4, 2021

Has one of your projects recently stalled or failed to achieve what it set out to? Even with a great team behind you and hard work, projects can still fail. The good news is you’re not alone.

Last month, we took a look at some statistics about project failure. It might not come as a surprise that, according to research by KPMG, 70% of organisations suffered at least one project failure in the previous 12 months. However, more shockingly, a PwC study of over 10,640 projects found that only 2.5% of companies complete their project 100% successfully.

Even smaller failures, like surpassing your budget or missing some softer requirements, can be demoralising for you and your team. We see people time and time again who don’t learn from their mistakes or are even held back by their fear of failure. Like many others, if you’ve recently experienced project failure, you might be feeling defeated or reticent to even ask the question: what next?

If you don’t face up to the difficulties you’ve experienced and reflect on them, it’s easy to fall into a cycle, making the same mistakes over and over. However, failure once does not have to mean failure again. Simple triumphs can lead to complacency, but mistakes and challenges are prime opportunities to learn and grow.

Follow our tips to move past your project failure and turn your future around.

Review and IMPROVE

A comprehensive post-project analysis is essential after any project - even a successful one. However, we regularly see teams that either miss out the reviewing stage entirely or are reluctant to ask the really difficult questions.

Cultivating a free and honest environment within your team encourages a truthful review. When a project has cost significant amounts of money and lots of hard work, it can be understandably difficult to discuss how it might have failed. However, not doing so will only cost more time and money in the future. Removing guilt and blame allows your team members to give honest feedback and identify exactly what went wrong.

Celebrate the wins

Although it's important to face up to your mistakes, you shouldn't forget to celebrate the wins too! As the statistics show, many projects aren't wholly successful, but few are complete failures either. Even if you didn't achieve your goals, there are always positives, including new learning opportunities, to recognise.

Encouraging this attitude in your team mitigates the demoralising effect past failures can have, letting them look forward to future projects with a proactive mindset.

Escape the fear of failure

Fear of failure can be debilitating. Especially if you've struggled before, it can be a natural temptation to hold yourself back simply to avoid failing, even if you don't realise it! It's important to individually recognise this in yourself and push through. However, you can also help prevent these fears throughout your team.

We all want to succeed, but failure shouldn't be your worst nightmare. Prioritising personal responsibility over guilt and blame within your team promotes healthier attitudes to challenges and difficulties so they're not afraid to jump in and do their best.

Identify wider improvements

We've discussed the importance of a project review, but it's also a great opportunity to take a look to identify gaps in your business more widely. For example, review the skill set of your team. How could you enrich their abilities, both individually and as a team?

The time between projects is invaluable to consider small, but effective, changes that you can make to not only make your projects more successful, but your business on the whole.

Don't feel you're alone

No matter how catastrophic it can feel at the time, you're not the first person to experience project failure - and you won't be the last. With complete honesty and a positive attitude towards growth and change, you can move past a project failure to achieve success in the future, but you don't have to do it alone.

If you're struggling to identify where things went wrong, bringing in a consultant can be a great way to get another perspective. At Projects that Deliver, we specialise in helping get your stuck and failing projects back on track. If you want to ensure your future projects don't get derailed, contact us for a chat.

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