CHAPTER 13

Why Good Projects Fail Anyway

by Nadim F. Matta and Ronald N. Ashkenas

Big projects fail at an astonishing rate. Whether major technology installations, postmerger integrations, or new growth strategies, these efforts consume tremendous resources over months or even years. Yet as study after study has shown, they frequently deliver disappointing returns—by some estimates, in fact, well over half the time. And the toll they take is not just financial. These failures demoralize employees who have labored diligently to complete their share of the work. One middle manager at a top pharmaceutical company told us, “I’ve been on dozens of task teams in my career, and I’ve never actually seen one that produced a result.”

The problem is, the ...

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