It is easy to find examples if high-profile projects fail. Because their budgets and audits are more transparent, the ones that make it to the papers are often those in government.
Here are some high-profile projects that failed:
Multiplex, an Australian development company that was responsible for the reconstruction and maintenance of Wembley Stadium, realized that costs were increasing to the point where it would lose PS750 million. This was due to an unanticipated rise in steel prices.
The Millennium Dome was in financial trouble and needed additional PS179 million from the National Lottery during 2000.
The project plan for the Scottish Parliament was revised five times and took 20 months to complete. It cost ten-times more than the original budget and finally came in at PS430million.
The original budget for the planned spa complex in Bath to boost tourism was PS13.5 million. Due to unexpected delays and a variety of building-related issues, the cost has risen to PS43million. PS30 million of this is coming from Bath and North East Somerset Council. The original plan was to invest only PS3 million in this project, with the remainder coming from lottery funding. Instead, the tax payers have borne the cost.
The budget for the Channel Tunnel construction project increased from PS4.8 billion up to PS10.9 billion.
2006 was the year that the Airbus A380 was scheduled to take to flight. The international team didn’t use compatible design software, which caused snowballing problems. Each year, the project is late costs EUR1 billion in penalties to 16 customers. Delays in the EUR11 billion project have also contributed towards the sliding share price at EADS, Airbus’ parent company. A recovery plan includes job losses in the UK, Germany, and the UK.
These projects were subject to investigations, reports, and reviews, among other things. You can expect to be the center of attention if you work on a high-profile, publically-funded project that fails.
Success or failure? Let’s try again
There are always two sides to any story. It is possible to interpret these projects to be a success. The Millennium Dome attracted 5.5 Million paying visitors, twice as many than any other UK attraction. Plus, another 1,000,000 were entitled to free entry.
The overwhelming majority of visitors (87%) were happy with their day. The venue opened on time, which is very important for a millennium attraction.
Although the Scottish Parliament was delayed and overbudget, it was a success in may’s eyes when Enric Miralles won the Stirling prize in architecture 2005.
The Scottish Parliament building. In March 2007, the Airbus A380 made its maiden transatlantic flight, silenced critics and proved it can use shorter runways than other smaller jets. Quality of the aircraft and its safety are more important to airline passengers than the project’s timeliness or budget.
Airbus’ superjet has made a significant impact on quality, as evidenced by the early flights.
These examples demonstrate that how we define success can have a significant impact on our perception of whether a project has failed. Interpretation of negative headlines is influenced by the definition of failure. It’s important to understand what is most important for your project.
What is the biggest problem that could make your project fail? What makes it a success? What are the most important criteria that your Sponsor must meet? How will you define them?
These are crucial questions to ask during the project’s initiation phase. To help you plan how your project will succeed, read my definitive guide to project success criteria.
It won’t suffice to have project success criteria.