The 10 Human Factors that Cause Projects To Fail : Change Management Perspective

McManus and Wood-Harper (2007) discovered in their study of 42 Information Technology (IT) projects that 35% of project failure was attributed to technical factors, which meant that the other 65% were attributed to human/people factors. This discovery was quite alarming as many assumed that the technical aspects would be the main factor for project success.




Unfortunately, many project managers are ill-equipped to manage the people/human side of any project. When managers or leaders focus on the mechanical aspects, the other aspects would be naturally be neglected in the process.


For example, in a data migration project to a new platform


The most obvious missing part of the jigsaw puzzle that most people would assume is the technology that is going to be utilised to ensure the success of data migration. It is actually not about the technology, it is about getting all stakeholders in sync with format of how the data needs to the migrated. Based on the data migration project, different departments store their data differently and retrieve data differently. If the human part is taken out the picture, the data migration would probably be done within a day or two.


In the study by McManus and Wood-Harper, the human factors that caused almost two-thirds of projects to fail are as follows :


  • Lack of top management support

  • Failure to gain user commitment

  • Project manger cannot effectively lead the team

  • No process for controlling the change

  • Stakeholders not involved in the process

  • Failure to manager end user expectations

  • Weak team member commitment

  • Breakdown in stakeholder communication

  • Lack of key stakeholder participation in meetings

  • Conflict between user departments

The complexity of project doubles and quadruples when the project requires more stakeholders especially when they are from different departments within the organization. More difficulty would be added if there is an inclusion of external stakeholders (i.e. vendors, outsourced services etc)


So how can we improve the probability of project success?



Leaders and managers need to remember the human aspect on Day Zero rather than begin considering the human aspect only when resistance occurs. You can read our other article on using the EMP framework to help people embrace change






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