Your Pet Project Is Probably Going to Fail

Your Pet Project Is Probably Going to Fail

…but there might be some things you can do to avoid it.


 The successful execution of a project, like the creation of any effective work environment, is reliant on the leadership of the group. In a project’s case, this falls heavily on the Project Manager (PM) and Project Sponsor.

Colin D Ellis’ first book The Conscious Project Leader is an excellent guide for effective project management, and his new book, ‘The Project Rots from the Head’ really hits the nail on the head in regards to the issues with projects today and provides a guide for how project sponsors can avoid theirs ending up with the majority of projects that fail.

the conscious project leader

What Ellis gets right, that many in the project management space do not, is that projects are primarily about people – and successful projects are fruitful because of great leadership, not budgets or task lists. I’ve had the pleasure of seeing Ellis speak, and like his presentation style, the book is lively and entertaining, as well as clearly knowing demonstrating that Ellis knows his stuff. He’s passionate about people being front of mind when managing, or sponsoring a project, as it’s the people that will make it a success (or not).

Far too many times I’ve seen projects that should have been a slam dunk fail because the PM is not adequately supported by their sponsor, or worse, the sponsor has inadvertently undermined the PM’s effectiveness due to a lack of understanding of their role.

As I read the book with an HR lens, I found the lessons glaring, considering the types of projects that happen within our space, and the negative impact on the people within a workplace when they don’t go to plan (missed pays or badly planned restructures anyone?).

Ellis’ book though is not written with an HR audience specifically in mind, the lessons are universal, and due to Ellis’ easy-to-read style, also simple to absorb and apply.

Shockingly, 71% of projects fail, the Project Management Institute estimates that $3 trillion is spent annually on projects –that’s $2.13 trillion going towards failed ones each year! ‘The Project Rots from the Head’ is an excellent how-to guide, to help those that have senior leadership roles and stewardship over projects a practical way to avoid the negative statistics. The book is broken into the three key areas of project sponsorship: stewardship, decisions and results.

Ellis states unequivocally that “without strong accountability a project will fail at the first sign of trouble, time and time again.”

If you’re wondering whether this book is for you (or perhaps a gloriously suggestive New Year gift for your senior leadership team), pose yourself the following questions – which project sponsors should be able to answer:

1. What is the project vision?

2. What stage of the project are you in? (or sprint if it’s an agile project)

3. What are the outstanding decisions that need to be made?

4. What is the biggest risk to the project?

5. What is the projected cost of the project and how different is this to the business case?

6. What are the reasons for the difference?

7. What is the projected live date of the project and how different is this to the plan?

8. What are the reasons for the difference?

9. Will the benefits stated in the business case be realized?

10. If not, why not? Should the project be stopped?

    Renee Robson

    Renée is a learning and HR nerd with a passion for building the most effective organizations possible. She is adamant that change isn't THAT hard, work should be fun, and everyone’s life is made better when they’re fulfilled and working with people who are invested in helping them grow and reach their potential. Having worked in a variety of sectors and HR leadership roles, Renée has an opinion on most things in the workplace, and as such, you can find her speaking or writing in a variety of places. She most often speaks about learning and change, taking charge of your own professional development, leadership, and inclusion. You can connect with her at:, on Twitter @ReneeRoberz or at


    Pin It on Pinterest