Project Fail - The Ultimate Guide to Project Manager Failure

Project Manager as a Scapegoat - The Ultimate guide to project failure


If you are going to fail you might as well do it in style. Rather than having a project limp to an embarrassing end before someone finally puts it out of its agony why not blow it up in spectacular style instead?

Sounds like a good idea....  It might sound ridiculous but how else can you explain why project managers do things like this?

Ditch the Plan

Practice garbage basketball with your project planDo you know that giddy feeling you get when you go to the bar and order a beer even though it is only, like, 3 o´clock on a Tuesday afternoon? Sure you do. Well, the day you finally to decide to ditch the project plan will be like this but a hundred times better. You will dance with joy across to the coffee machine and you might skip a little if you are feeling particularly light hearted.

Sadly, just as drinking beer at 3 in the afternoon tends to lead to you into the territory of bitter regrets by early afternoon, so it will be with your hasty ditching of the project plan.

Within a day you will be on your hands and knees sifting through garbage trying to rescue it. Maybe one of the IT guys can rescue a copy of it from your hard drive? Yeah, keep dreaming buddy.

Do It All Alone

failure-with-multitasking.jpgThe best film heroes all work alone, don’t they? Superman, Spiderman, Clint Eastwood’s The Man With no Name and Willie Wonka all pretty much do it all by themselves. Sure, Wonka might not be a classic hero and he has also some midgets to help him out but I’m pretty sure they are just on secondment.

In the case of the heroic gun-slinging project manager even a temporary team of oompa loompas would seem like too much help. Instead, our tough guy works 20 hours a day to drive his piece of work forward.

Even while he is laid up in bed with chronic stress symptoms and a bunch of stomach ulcers he still calls his boss to explain why he has missed yet another milestone. What a hero.

Accept All Changes

Isn’t it great to be the good guy for a change? Too often in life we have to say that horrible no word. Why not make the change to agreeing to everything on your next project?

Can we have that new system a month early? Sure. Can we have it in 3D now? Of course. Can you add hologram images of Michael Jackson moonwalking his way across the main menu? Yeah, sounds good. By blithely agreeing to every change request that comes your way you will quickly become the most loved project leader in the history of the world.

Business users might even start throwing flowers at you when you arrive to work and your stakeholders will offer you the hand of their unmarried children in gratitude. All of this will be great fun until the day your world comes crashing down because you simply haven’t delivered anything you promised. In fact, you haven’t even been able to deliver on the original 2D, moonwalking-free system.

Check out this epic Dilbert video on how best to fail - so typical


Don’t Get the End Users Involved

The thrill of giving surprises never really fades away, does it? As you wrap up that special birthday gift or plan a surprise party you can just imagine the look of delight on the other person’s face.

Why can’t projects be more like this? Heck, sure they can. You just need to keep the whole thing a secret as long as you can. This means not having any meetings and not sending out any regular project updates. You might also like to hide under your desk whenever anyone approaches but that it entirely optional.

Even if they didn’t want the system or process you dreamed up and don’t know what to do with it they can’t fail to be impressed by the gesture.

Annoy the Stakeholders

Bah! Who do those stakeholders think they are anyway? While you are going about the serious business of trying to deliver the project they just turn up when they want to tell you how to do things.

How could you annoy them so much that they just give up and stop going to the meetings? Personally, I would go with the idea of pulling funny faces and sighing loudly every time they speak to me.

You could also try completely ignoring them if you like. You’ll know that you have achieved your goal when no one turns up to your next meeting. Having a meeting all to yourself will by great fun. It’s just a shame that you’ll be taken off the project before the next one.

Ignore the Warning Signs

Large Caffine intake is a warning sign too!Assuming that you didn’t throw your project plan in with the garbage, you should have a good idea when the project is starting to go off track. Milestones get missed, dates get pushed back and your project status is redder than a lobster that’s just had a week’s holiday in the sun and is feeling a bit embarrassed about something. It doesn’t really matter though, does it?

Those warning signs are for wimps who get all worked up about piddling little things like milestones and getting the project delivered on time. Instead, you keep quiet about those warnings and silently pray they just disappear.

It might work and a bunch of fairies might start running around the office handing out succulent grapes and singing Lady Gaga songs as well. The alternative is that the things you have been getting constantly warned about end up, frankly, happening.

Share your Experiences

Share your Experiences below How do you think of failure?  We all fail at some time but how do you handle it? Did you think this job or project was going to be easy then your hit with reality?  Did you realized OMG what have I done?  Honestly all these things have happened to me in the past but I continue to dodge.


Guest Bloggers are real people who share project experiences without negative consequences.  Feel free to send us war stories or blog posts.  We can all share and fail together!

Guest Bloggers are real people who share project experiences without negative consequences.  Feel free to send us war stories or blog posts.  We can all share and fail together!...

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About Chris the blogger

Hi, my Name is Chris Cruise.  I'm a PMP-certified project manager. This blog is about sharing real project stories and helping people become successful.

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