13 Failure Factors in Development Projects

For quite some time I’ve been interested about development projects. Why some succeed and some fail. I won’t go into specific examples of failed development projects. One particularly outspoken example is a TED talk by Ernesto Sirolli (first part).

“Like parking a truck with two trailers backwards”

What makes many well-meaning projects fail is the huge complexity and the indirect influence necessary for a project to work. I compare it to parking a truck with two trailers backwards (try that for a change :-) ) Here is a list of influencing factors:

  1. Complexity of governance
  2. Long project duration
  3. Complicated action chain from input to  output to outcome and finally to impact
  4. Lack of collaboration across disciplines and sectors
  5. Lack of professionalism
  6. Ulterior motives / hidden agendas
  7. Fundamental change of institutional environment during project
  8. Competition for resources
  9. Lack of proper need analysis / not doing the right things
  10. Redundant projects by different agencies
  11. Not learning from past failures / no independent project reviews
  12. Bad stakeholder management
  13. Population growth is neutralizing success

I am excited to see how FINCA’s founder John Hatch during his many assignments found himself documenting dozens of foreign assistance failures that came closer to destroying than assisting their intended beneficiaries. He longed to create an organization that would allow the poor themselves to manage their own development initiatives. (from wikipedia)

(photo by Cris Potter on StockMoney.com)


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