The Causes of Project Failure

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The Causes of Project Failure
JEFFREY K. PINTO AND SAMUEL J. MANTEL, JR. and failure. Some years ago, a noted expert on project management wrote, “The many instances where project management fails overshadow the stories of successful projects [2].” While there is little reason to adopt such a pessimistic view today, if we can gain knowledge about the nature and causes of project failure, we will improve our ability to implement projects. The primary purpose of this paper is to report the results of a recent study that was performed to determine if there exist patterns of causes of project failure depending on three contingency variables,
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As a result, many practitioners regard the causes of success or failure of their projects to be highly idiosyncratic and not generalizable to a larger project population 121. A third difficulty is raised by the possibility that the causes of failure may vary by the type of project being studied. Distinctive patterns of causes may be associated with the failure of specific types of projects. Research projects might be affected by different factors than, say, construction projects. Fourth, the causes of project failure may also be contingent on the stage of the life cycle in which the project resides. The reasons a project might be viewed as a failure early in its life may quite different than those seen to cause failure at some later point, during implementation for example. It is important for project managers and researchers to gain a better understanding of the causes of project failure. With the well-recognized move toward an increased use of project organizational structures and project-based work techniques, there is a concomitant increased potential for misapplication
Manuscript received January 1989. The review of this paper was processed by Department Editor R. Balanchandra. This research was conducted under a grant from the Graduate Center for the Management of Advanced Technology and Innovation, College of Business Administration, University of Cincinnati. J. K.
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