How to Deal With Project Failure

Amit Patel

Written by

Amit Patel

Read Time

3 minutes

Project management is a gamble. In business, you make decisions, and sometimes they’re wrong. No matter how solid your plan is, no matter how well your team works together, no matter how much experience you have, and no matter how much capital you have to work with, project failure is always a possibility.

When a project fails, it can be devastating: team members can be let go, clients can be lost, and confidence in your company can be shattered, both from the public and from your own team. This article will help you deal with project failure, identifying some tips that should help you pick up the pieces and start again, better than before.

Move Quickly

As soon as you suspect that a project is about to fail, take actions to mitigate the damage. Ideally, you’ll be able to see failure coming, and have some time to figure out what you can do in order to prevent the fallout from devouring your company. This can mean issuing a recall for a consumer product, contacting the financial backers ahead of time to warn them, and in extreme cases, downsizing to ensure your company is lean enough to weather the storm. Also, if you have not used an online tool for resource allocation within your company, I recommend using one of these best resource scheduling software.

Ask for Help

Being so close to a project that failed, it may be difficult for you to see the big picture. This means when it comes to figuring out why a project failed, what the full effect will be, and how best to move forward, you may want to get an outside perspective. If it’s in the budget, consider bringing on a recovery project manager, or RPM. These individuals usually join project development teams from the outside and can offer a fresh perspective in the ‘war room’ when it comes to analyzing the cause of failure and determining the next step.

Analyze the Data

Once you are positive that your project has failed, and your team is prepared to handle the consequences, begin analyzing all the data. This means figuring out what specifically caused your project to fail, so that you can come up with a plan to handle the same situation if it crops up in the future, or prevent it from happening entirely. Additionally, analyze your own project to see if any data or components are salvageable; just because it didn’t work this time, that doesn’t mean some of the separate components of a project can’t be retooled into something that will.

Don’t Give Up

Project failure is always discouraging, but you can’t let it get to you. Failure is a highly common aspect of any serious undertaking, and some would say it’s a necessary aspect of it. For every success, there are usually several devastating failures behind it. Understand that even though you failed, you are in good company: Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Edison, Steve Jobs, and countless other project managers and innovators achieved their successes after a devastating defeat. Stay strong in the face of failure, and you can come back even stronger.


When it first happens to you, failure is a scary thing that can shake you to your core. It can leave you feeling helpless, like a deer trapped in the headlights. However, failure doesn’t have to be the end, and in many cases can be the beginning of an even bigger success. With these tips, you should be able to recover quickly, gain as much information as possible, and move forward quickly with a new project that’s more likely to succeed. However, even if you come back stronger and smarter than before, the possibility of failure is still there. This is why the best project managers aren’t the ones that succeed the most, but the ones that are best at handling failure.

Amit Patel is a contributor at an online resource dedicated to helping professionals pass their PMP Exams on their first try. They provide invaluable PMP training course reviews, tools, and study tips to fast-track the success of PMP professionals.

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