Summaries and post-scripts


Series on Project Success and Failure
Article 6 of 6

By Alan Stretton

Sydney, Australia



This is the final article of a series of six articles on project successes and failures. The five previous articles, which constitute the main body of this series, were:

  1. Some deficiencies in data on project successes and failures (Stretton 2014j)
  2. Some deficiencies in published causes of project failures (Stretton 2015a)
  3. Factors affecting Level 1: “Project management” success (Stretton 2015b)
  4. Approaches to increasing Level 2: “Project” success (Stretton 2015c)
  5. Approaches to increasing Level 3: “Business” success (Stretton 2015d)

The first two articles, and the first half of the third, were primarily concerned with exploring deficiencies in data on project success / failure rates, both current and over longer terms, on causes of failure, and differences in criteria used for establishing success / failure.

The latter half of the third article, and the fourth, were primarily concerned with the initiation phases of projects, and the need to get vastly increased involvement by project management in these phases (where this does not already occur), to ensure that the right projects are being done. The fifth articles extended such involvement even further back, into organizational strategic planning.

This article summarises key findings from these articles, and adds some post-scripts on these findings, mainly relevant to the project management community at large.


Summaries and recommendations in the first two articles

Several types of deficiency in published data on project successes / failures were first identified.

  • Different project success/failure criteria are being used by different people
  • Project success/failure rates data are sparse in most areas
  • The data on causes of failure are meagre indeed

These deficiencies indicate, first, that we simply do not have consistent, comparable validated data on project successes / failure rates for most project types and/or application areas. The best data we have are for software projects and mega-projects. In both areas, there appears to be broad agreement that project failure rates are a good deal higher than they should be. If this applies for these two types of projects, what is the situation with other project types and/or application areas? We simply do not know.


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Editor’s note: This series of articles on project successes and failures is by Alan Stretton, PhD (Hon), Life Fellow of AIPM (Australia), a pioneer in the field of professional project management and one of the most widely recognized voices in the practice of program and project management.   Long retired, Alan is still accepting some of the most challenging research and writing assignments; he is a frequent contributor to the PM World Journal. See his author profile below.


About the Author



Alan Stretton, PhD

Faculty Corps, University of Management
and Technology, Arlington, VA (USA)
Life Fellow, AIPM (Australia)


Alan Stretton
is one of the pioneers of modern project management. He is currently a member of the Faculty Corps for the University of Management & Technology (UMT), USA. In 2006 he retired from a position as Adjunct Professor of Project Management in the Faculty of Design, Architecture and Building at the University of Technology, Sydney (UTS), Australia, which he joined in 1988 to develop and deliver a Master of Project Management program.   Prior to joining UTS, Mr. Stretton worked in the building and construction industries in Australia, New Zealand and the USA for some 38 years, which included the project management of construction, R&D, introduction of information and control systems, internal management education programs and organizational change projects. He has degrees in Civil Engineering (BE, Tasmania) and Mathematics (MA, Oxford), and an honorary PhD in strategy, programme and project management (ESC, Lille, France). Alan was Chairman of the Standards (PMBOK) Committee of the Project Management Institute (PMI®) from late 1989 to early 1992. He held a similar position with the Australian Institute of Project Management (AIPM), and was elected a Life Fellow of AIPM in 1996. He was a member of the Core Working Group in the development of the Australian National Competency Standards for Project Management. He has published over 140 professional articles and papers. Alan can be contacted at [email protected].

To see more works by Alan Stretton, visit his author showcase in the PM World Library at http://pmworldlibrary.net/authors/alan-stretton/.