When you look at the statistics for failure the numbers are staggering!
70 percent of projects, 80 percent of first business and whopping 95 percent of product launches fail to meet their target. Many of these failures happen for the same reasons. Reasons which can be easily avoided if you take a little bit of care and attention, and look to learn from the mistakes of others.
Here are 10 common causes of failure you need to avoid to achieve great results.
Lack of Clearly Defined Goals
If you do not know what it is you are trying to achieve, then it is impossible for you to plan for it correctly or know when you have achieved it. Your goals need to be crystal clear, because only then can you come up with a realistic plan for achieving them.
Imagine your goal is to be a millionaire by the age of 40, sounds pretty clear right?
But, to me, that’s not clear at all!
Do you mean that you want a business or job to be generating a million in revenue? Do you want to have assets that are worth a million? Or, do you want to have $1million in cash in the bank?
These are 3 completely different things, each of which would require a different plan of action.
You need to have complete clarity on your goal so that you can be sure that the plan you create is the right plan to achieve it.
Poorly Communicated Goals
How you communicate the goals, and how often has a significant impact on a teams ability to achieve them. The only thing worse than not having a clear goal is not communicating it clearly.
You also need to communicate the purpose or the reason why the goals are important, and if possible, why the goals are important to your teams. When you do that, you can increase the motivation of your teams. When your teams are motivated and have a sense of purpose, their productivity will increase, which will help you achieve your goal and maybe even exceed it.
I did some work with a CEO of a small business with approximately 20 staff. The CEO told me that the team was not always following instructions or if they were, the tasks were often completed later than expected.
I asked whether they had communicated the goals for the business to the team?
The CEO replied, “No. Why should I”?
If your team doesn’t know what the goals are, how can they know whether or not the task you have assigned is important or not? If tasks are perceived as not important, then they can often be put to one side for tasks that may be misinterpreted as more important.
Also, when you fail to communicate your goals, you restrict your teams from being creative and innovative. You put them in a position where you are just expecting them to blindly follow instructions. This is hardly inspiring and doesn’t create engaged teams.
Poor execution from the team is often a complaint that I hear from management.
In reality, this is often a symptom, rather than a root cause, and it’s a symptom that actually has many root causes. These can include the approach being overly complex, a lack of motivation, and a lack of clarity over roles and responsibility, all of which need to be addressed in order to ensure we get efficient execution.
No Clear Plan
When you lack a clear plan, you are relying more on hope than a detailed strategy.
If you lack a clear plan, how can you communicate to your teams what they need to do in order to be successful?
Clear plans allow you to build confidence that you know what needs to be done in order to achieve success. When your teams can see their way to victory, it increases motivation and belief.
When you have a confident and motivated team, hard work will naturally follow. People are not afraid of hard work, especially when they know they will be successful. It’s when people don’t see the path to success that they quit!
Just going through the planning process, itself, adds value. It forces you to think about the future and the challenges you’ll face. It also forces you to consider your financial needs, your marketing and management plans, your competition, and your overall strategy.
Starting Too Late
Some things have a predefined timeframe that is associated with them, which you need to take into account when planning or you will be setting ourselves up for failure.
I’ve lost count of the number of clients I have worked with that, when you look at the go-live date and work backwards, taking into account everything that needs to be done, it becomes apparent that for the end date they have set, they needed to start 2, 3, and sometimes 6 months earlier.
Take product launch, for instance. We cannot just select any date for the go live. You need to understand all of the tasks that need to be done before the launch. Only then can you commit to the go-live date. Otherwise, you will end up cutting corners in marketing and advertising. Your products will go live, but you will not achieve the targets we were hoping for.
That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be aggressive, but it does mean that you need to remember it takes 9 months to make a baby and you cannot change that, no matter how many women we employ.
Failure to React to Changing Circumstances
It’s great that you look to hold your course, but if the path you are on is not going to lead to success, then you need to change it. You need to be ready to adapt to new market conditions.
History is littered with tales of companies who clung to their approach, often when they knew that change was coming, but they were too stubborn to make the necessary changes.
Take Kodak, for instance. They actually invented the first digital camera but failed to take advantage. Instead, they continued making film and whilst the world went digital, they saw their profits slump and slump.
Instead of changing strategy and being the leader in digital, they felt that the higher profit film business was the way to go, even though this business was being eroded.
You need to be flexible and adaptive, ready to take advantage of opportunities when they arrive, or to handle any issues which crop up.
A successful manager is also a good leader. One who creates a work climate that encourages productivity. He or she has a skill at hiring competent people, training them and is able to delegate. A good leader is also skilled at strategic thinking, able to make a vision a reality and to confront change, make transitions, and envision new possibilities for the future
Too many managers giving conflicting directions is a sure-fire recipe for disaster. A ship can have only have one captain or it will end up on the rocks.
Sometimes, it can be as simple as a power struggle with different managers looking to wrestle for control or a bigger share of the profits, or it can be due to a difference of opinion in what the right strategy or tactics are.
Success comes when everyone is pulling in the same direction.
Underestimating the Complexity
It’s not the part of the iceberg we can see that sinks the ship. It’s the 2/3 which are below water that causes the problems.
You need to make sure that you do our due diligence. You need to ensure that we fully understand everything that needs to be done in order to be successful, only then can you plan for everything.
The biggest area of underestimation, in my experience, is the effort needed to run change programs where people are involved. There is always resistance to change, but too often people are overly optimistic, thinking that new processes or products will be adopted and accepted easily.
More often than not, it’s the people aspect of projects that require the most effort or takes the longest time, and if you don’t plan and budget for this, you will fail to achieve the results we are looking for.
Having insufficient resources is a common cause of failures in new businesses, especially having enough capital to survive the startup phase.
I remember with one of my first businesses, a lack of reserves almost caused the business to go under. The business model, itself, was fine. We offered a great service, with a good profit margin; the problem was that we hadn’t taken into consideration the payment terms of our customers.
Our costs needed to be paid each and every month, from day one, but our customers had 90-day payment terms. This meant that during the first 3 months, we had zero revenue, but significant costs, which caused us severe cash flow issues.
Even though we had profitable contracts, we nearly went under. Fortunately, I managed to get a loan, from a friend, to keep us going until we could move to a positive cash flow position. We were lucky. Not all businesses are that lucky.
The same is true of raw materials, personnel, and equipment. You need to make sure you have sufficient resources, in order to achieve our goal.
No Transparency in Performance
You would be amazed at the number of companies, businesses, or departments that don’t have detailed progress reviews. I am not talking about a meeting, where the top-level managers meet to talk about issues that have arisen; I am talking about detailed meetings, where actual progress is compared to plan, and forecasts of future performance is reviewed and compared to the plan to ensure that the goals will be met
These meetings are required in order to hold people accountable and provide positive feedback to motivate our teams or support to those that need help getting back on track.
This also reinforces that your goals are important and you are determined to meet them.
If you can avoid these top ten reasons for failure, you will put yourself into that small group of people who are not only successful, but are successful repeatedly.
Originally published at www.inc.com