Book Review: Why Projects Fail?

Why Projects Fail is an engaging book that explains the underlying reasons for project failure in simple terms. The book takes the reader through various stages of the project development, from conceiving of the project and allocating the relevant funds to budgeting and external and internal consequences that result in the consecutive project failure. One of the most engaging cases of project failure as illustrated in the book "Why Projects Fail" is the case of the failure of Mars Project Orbiter as it demonstrates that typical mistakes of the project management that lead projects to fail happen across all industries, and space projects do not serve as an exception from this rule.

The aim of the Mars Project Orbiter project was to orbit the planet with the goal of collecting relevant environmental and weather data on the project.  However, the spacecraft failed to reach its destination due to the failure of the telemetry signals (Shauchenka 35). As a result of this, a project with a budget of approximately 125 million dollars resulted in a complete failure. Why Projects Fail investigates several distinguishable factors that led to the failure of the mission. Among others, these include inadequate considerations of the entire mission, inconsistencies throughout communication and training among the members of the team, and lack of complete adherence to the standards of utility when it comes to the software that was used over the course of the project (Shauchenka).  Because of these, the team responsible for the project failed to use metric units to code ground software file, which was the immediate reason behind the failure of the project. Therefore, it could be summarized that the failure of the mission as a result of a particular combination of technological factors, human factors, staffing, training, and planning project for the mission.

The particular failure is unfortunate within the context of how NASA is capable of dealing with the issues within their projects.  Nasa has built a reputation for dealing with the issues that occur over the course of the project with the help of effective techniques.  One of the ways of dealing with the problems is through cultural change that is flexible enough to contain a diverse group of team members of various backgrounds. Another method of issue solution is daily progress evaluation of different segments of the mission that allows monitoring potential problems in different areas before they become significant. Finally, NASA is known for carrying contingency procedures to foresee critical events that may or may not happen.

I find an overview of the project failure useful because it helps to understand how the companies with resourceful plans to prevent failure can still fail when the combination of certain factors that foresee failure happens. It is essential for companies at all levels to be flexible in their responses to the occurring issues as a human factor can cause the project to fail even if previous projects succeeded. Moreover, each of the projects has to start with an in-depth analysis of its own unique characteristics of uncertainty and risk. The case of NASA made me think about the group project that I did with the team of my peers over the course of my studies. I believe that the project resulted in failure because we made the mistake of applying a framework of our previous successful project without considering some of the unique details of a new one.

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