Incomplete Projects


It is true that today many organizations are applying the principles of strategic management in the running of their affairs. In any sound management, there are always long term, medium-term and short-term goals. There are also projects or ventures that go hand in hand with a company’s goals or objectives. A basis tenet is that if the short-term goals are not well manned, the wider strategic and long-term goal may not be achieved. Likewise, if the short-term projects are not accomplished, the organization may dwindle since the bigger strategic project would be mal-achieved or not be realized at all.

The United States Project Management Institute defines a project as a time-limited and a goal-oriented undertaking that requires commitment of skills and resources (Kozami, 2002). According to the author, a project passes through the following phases: The conception, definition, planning and organizing, implementation and clean-up phase. It is suggested that project implementation should be procedural and broken into stages. However, project phase vary depending on the type of the industry. A collection of several project phases is called a project life cycle (Schalbe, 2009).

According to Hunt, Sproat and Kitzmiller (2004), project implementation should start with the assessment of organizational changes necessary for the success of the project. This is in line with the phases of project implementation which follows a feasibility study, executive commitment, and team formation, determination of timelines (including budgeting), determination of support system, risk assessment, execution and maintenance. According to Campbell and Baker (2007), some examples of projects entail business development initiatives, product development, training projects for human resource management, development projects, mergers and acquisitions, re-engineering projects, construction projects, technology implementations and strategic initiatives.

Project management is the use of techniques, instruments and skills to organize activities for the achievement of a venture. The process is guided by elements of goal, time, cost scope and quality. It also entails a high level of leadership that facilitates the goal attainment. The stakeholders of a project include the support staff, sponsor, team, suppliers and users.

Why Projects are never completed

As stated by Hunt, Sproat and Kitzmiller (2004), some projects are never completed because of poor planning. In other words, planners do not evaluate the anticipated organizational changes which may later overwhelm the success of such a project. This aspect would however vary with the kind of the organization. In a hospital set up, the incompleteness of a project may resort from possible health risks on the part of patients. It therefore means that an insufficiency in either of the phases would lead to non-completion of a project.

Other projects fail to be completed due to economic reasons (Muller and FAO, 1995). To affirm this position, Schalbe (2009) asserted that some managers are not aware of the resource needs of a project. A project may seem non-expensive since the initial phases do not demand a lot of money yet the later phases turn to be more expensive. In most cases, this is realized during the project’s middle phases of the life cycle. According to Kaplan (2005) big IT projects are likely to consume 10-20% of the IT budget for a specific period. The authors also cited political interferences as another reason why some industries fail to complete their projects. An example is the change in government policy or legislation barring the transaction or carrying out of a project that was already in progress before the policy or law was enacted.

There are many reasons as to why projects are never completed. In the view of McGrath (1996), projects that did not match company’s strategies did not succeed. As a result, the staffs do not take responsibility for the proposed product strategies. Another factor cited by specialist’s point that a project should have a formal process by which it shall be carried out. In other words, projects fail because of unprofessional approach in the formulation and execution phase. There have also been cases whereby employees are not motivated enough to carry out the demands of the project in question.

If projects are not evaluated and professionally checked the way they are supposed, they are bound to fail. In other words, projects fail because of incomplete assessments. According to Triantis (1999) it is better for a project not to be done than to kick off without having been duly assessed. Triantis expressly stated that an inexperienced project team also leads to project downfall. This experience and knowledge entails the strategic and cultural diligence on organizational compatibility with the company-wide goal. The compatibility is based on the structure of the organization, its networks, systems and process.

There is a difference between management and leadership. While management is concerned with the product, leadership deals with the relationships between the workers. It has been proven that leaders achieve a great deal of success than exclusive managers. Projects have failed in the past because managers are much distanced from the workers; the power gap is very wide. Other authorities differentiate between ‘dreaming’ and ‘doing’. According to Belsky (2010), exclusive dreamers do not complete most of the jobs as they are always fantasizing about the results which they hardly work towards. Project planners have over time and across space suffered from this problem in which everything ended at the planning stage. Most projects never kick off because the planners do not have the necessary energy required to actually do what is written in paper.

On the other hand, projects succeed if they satisfy the customers and the sponsors and if they meet their objectives. Other factors cited for the success of IT project management are user involvement, executive support, minimized scope, clear objectives, the experience of the business manager, the basic requirements, standard software infrastructure and reliable estimates of time and expected benefits.

How to Handle Incomplete Projects

The mode of handling projects that were never completed varies depending on the nature of the project and the reasons for its non-completion. One of the determinants of the path to be taken is the wider organizational goals, objectives and vision. For those projects that are part of the strategic plan, a re-invention of the will and re-commitment is imperative. Further depending on the degree of the failure, it should be decided whether to continue with the project or go back to the drawing board. For the development projects in large national economies, Carson (1990) suggested that such projects should be completed especially if the capital tied up is above the critical level. Economic stimulus is also an internationally acclaimed way of governmental support for the investment process for it statutory and non-governmental organizations. Heldman (2003) called it ‘jumpstarting’.

In a business set up, the image of the business should be among the priorities to be safeguarded. With the rising levels of competition, businesses are striving to exploit every competitive advantage that comes their way. If for instance a marketing strategy was never implemented, the marketing division should immediately re-organize its operations and refocus on other strategies if the initial one was not realistic.

According to Lockwood (2010), managers should also consider handing over unfinished projects to those people who would enjoy doing them to completion. If the project has to be completed, Hoeger and Hoeger (2008) wrote that extra time should be scheduled for this inevitable task. In industrial terms, this has been referred to as overtime. Partakers also need to be re-motivated and re-energized. Elsewhere, in her Becoming a literacy leader: Supporting learning and change, Allen (2006) suggested that technicians should be guided and assisted in fulfilling their duties. Other strategies include elimination of distractions and better remuneration of workers.

How to Prevent Non-completion of Projects

This sub-topic can also be viewed from another perspective: How to ensure that projects get completed. Persley and George (1999) suggested that so as to ensure the completion of a project, people should use the experience obtained from other successful projects. They also caution that projects in any industry should actually be realistic and implementable. Managers should ensure that those people entrusted with the responsibility of implementing a project have the required strategic knowledge for the same.

The project way is increasingly becoming the popular way of organizing work. According to Campbell and Baker (2007), computers are now than ever before organizing ideas in terms of projects. There are many tactics of completing a project especially if the said project is in line with the needs of the business. It is important for business project managers to balance well resources, time, perceptions and the anticipated results.

In their book, Prezant, Weekes and Miller (2008), the requirements of a project closeout include good administration, following of procedures, inspection and cleaning. Since workers are a critical component of a project’s completion, their protection is paramount. The program for workers also includes their training and occupational safety. The implementers of a project should be medically monitored including but not limited to respiratory protection and decontamination of the work area.

Most projects have a sponsor who usually requires accountability for the money they give out. Whenever a project fails, the one in charge of its implementation should notify the sponsor (Hoffman, 2008). In a further attempt to protect the funds of a particular project, Hoffman suggested the creation of an offshore account such that other creditors are not likely to consume the.

So as to effectively complete projects, managers need to be aware of some of the factors that lead to the failure of the projects. Obeng and colleagues undertook to investigate why most projects ended acrimoniously. It was found out that legal wrangles were one of the major contributors. State laws should thus be revised to make it easy for projects to be completed (Obeng, 2003). For projects to be easily completed, their delivery must be within the legal framework of the country. A myriad of projects also fail since the concerned persons carry out so many of them at the same time. It is recommended that managers and policy formulator deal with just the appropriate number of projects within their implementation capacity. Other projects require massive costs for implementation. Looked at from another perspective, there are those projects (irrigation) that get completed but without the stipulated time (Reddy, 1998). These delays may have been as a result of logistical constraints and poor estimations of timelines. To avoid non-completion of projects, time should be clearly calculated and estimated. There should also be a great deal of caution in calculating the anticipated  benefits from the initiated projects  since some projects failed following little rates of return on investment.

Projects are not only begun by a single person but also by partners as seen in joint business ventures. There may thus arise disputes on how to go about some issues like sharing of dividends and holding of office thus bringing down the success of the business project. There should be a clear memorandum of understanding among or between the partners on roles of each of them and the proportional return on the investment thereby made. The success of a construction project may be viewed from another perspective. In the opinion of Walker and Wilkie (2002), the quantity surveyor should select the most appropriate dates for the commencement of a project, interim dates of valuation and an estimated date of completion. Other authorities such as Birchall and Tovstiga (2005), observed application of best practices and innovation as having been important prerequisites of a project’s success. The duo also suggested a creation of a body within the company that (body) would oversee the implementation of the project. The body should not be over-dependent on or over-interfered with by the mainstream company. Any technical nuances should be dealt with at the planning stage (Birchall & Tovstiga, 2005). All in all, it is not entirely possible to envisage the upcoming risks until work begins.

How to Help People Complete Projects

So as to effectively complete projects, staff should adopt at least three implementation strategies (Hunt, Sproat & Kitzmiller, 2004): The big bang, parallel and stepped. In the first strategy, all persons are directed to adopt the new project while the parallel strategy deals with many projects at the same time. People should be made aware of their implementation capability so as to successfully complete the projects assigned to them by the management. In a health care set up, persons should apply the ‘stepped’ or ‘staged’ implementation strategy which allows the members of implementation team to assess the functionality of the whole system. It is more radical and reliable.

It is very crucial to do adequate research and consultancy before initiating a project. Kaplan reported that experience has shown that it is easier to scale down the number of projects as opposed to scaling up (2005). He advised that it is better to handle a few big projects than to handle many projects. Project managers are also advised that strategic projects should be placed within the management framework so as to enjoy the support provided by the management or administration.

As seen earlier, there are several phases of project implementation. During the planning phase, project managers should involve the staff so that when implementation comes, they feel part of the solution and do not work as if the project is for the management alone. In other words, project managers should practice more leadership as opposed to rigid management. In addition, since it was realized that most planners just dream but do not perform, it is hereby suggested that gather the necessary energy to carry out the propositions in their business or organizational dream or goal. It is further suggested by Heldman (2003) that project managers should continuously perform risk management from the initial to the ultimate stages of the project life. The author cautioned that managers should be aware that the greatest level of risk is involved during the early phases and thus all efforts should be geared towards collective scenergy for success. Risk events should be carefully observed.

Hoffman (2008) was instrumental in suggesting how to help people not only in the initiation of the project idea but also in the financial sustenance of the whole project. To the new project managers, he suggested that there should be a disbursement agreement and the frequency with which funds should be released. Project funds should never be used as collaterals for loans since in the moment of default; the funds may be redirected leading to the non-completion of the project.

Project managers should be made to understand that coordination of project activities is an important aspect of project delivery. According to Birchall and Tovstiga (2005), coordination of a project is purely tactical. In their text, David Birchall and George Tovstiga specified that projects are components of larger organizational programs which are companywide and needing coordination. In a business setting, related divisions such as sales, marketing and advertising should be well matched for perfect results. Project management per se is concerned with the achievement of results.


A common problem with organizations is the non-completion of the projects initiated by the management. This investigation was an exploration upon the reasons that lead to the non-completion of projects, how to handle incomplete projects, how to prevent non-completion of projects and how to help people complete projects. It was found out that some reasons leading to failure of projects are  the fact that they were not aligned with the organization’s wider strategy, if not well assessed, if the estimates of time and benefits were miscalculated, if the manager is inexperienced and if the project team in not well equipped. In handling incomplete projects, managers or implementers should be guided by the initial purpose of the project. If the project has to be completed, academic authorities suggest application of over-time, re-invention of will, re-training of the team and re-commitment of energies. On how to avoid the non-completion of projects, managers ought to be aware of the factors that lead to failure of projects. So as to sensitize project managers to effectively manage projects, coordination and leadership tactics  should be inculcated in young managers.

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