Different scholars from different fields and background give varying definitions of the concept project. However, they are all in agreement with regard to some of the defining features of a project. A distillation of these definitions views a project as a temporary set of activities with defined time frame and conditions.
The activities have a clear starting point and an ending point, and several parties or stakeholders are involved in execution of the various tasks (Reiss 2005). A project has several characteristics that set it apart from other activities that are undertaken in an organisation or by a group of people. One of them is a budget, given the fact that a project operates with a clearly set budget.
There is also a set of clearly defined responsibilities, meaning that each party in the project is tasked with the performance of given duties aimed at meeting the objectives. A projective also has objectives, which are the aims or goals that the project intends to achieve within a defined timeframe.
Several factors lead to the success or failure of a project. Frese and Sauter (2003) bemoan the fact that not all projects that are initiated can be deemed as success.
They cite the case of projects that are initiated in the information and technology (herein referred to as IT) sector, where almost 70 percent of all the projects that are initiated ends up as project failures (Frese and Sauter 2003). This is despite the amount of resources, financial and otherwise, that has gone into these projects.
A project is defined or conceptualised as a success if it meets the objectives that were set out in the planning phase. It can also be deemed as a success if it is completed within the defined time frame, and using the budget that was allocated in the planning phase.
This means that not all projects that are completed are deemed as success stories (Bartholomew 2007). For example, a project may have been completed within the set deadline but failed to meet the objectives of the target clients.
On the other hand, there are several attributes that defines a project as a failure. This is for example a project that failed to beat the deadline, meaning that it stretched way beyond the set end point (Bartholomew 2007). Another is a project that used more resources than initially allocated or planned for, in other words, a project that could not be completed within the set budgetary allocation.
A project may also be considered as a failure if it is not completed for various reasons. This is for example the withdrawal of the sponsors, or if the implementers found out that the objectives of the project will not be met. Most importantly, a project that fails to meet the objectives that were set out in the planning phase is also regarded as a failure. This is regardless of whether the project was completed or not.
There are several factors that may result into project failure. This is for example inadequate resources, lack of commitment on the part of the personnel or stakeholders that are involved in the project, lack of clearly identified goals and objectives, as well as lack of adequate project planning among others.
This means that project management is very crucial, and it has to be undertaken before the implementation of the project in order to identify potential risks and ways to deal with those risks should they arise.
Various projects have received considerable media publicity as a result of them having been regarded as failures. This is especially so if the projects were implemented on a grand scale and a lot of resources went into them. A case in point is the unsuccessful England’s bid to host 2018 world cup, a bid that was lost to Russia (Nakrani 2010). This bid drew a lot of attention for various reasons.
First, England is regarded as the “mother of football” (Nakrani 2010), considering the fact that the game is said to have originated in this country. Second, a lot of resources went into this bid, considering the fact that the campaign cost the tax payer approximately 15 million pounds. Third, despite this large scale spending, the country lost the bid.
This paper is going to look at project failures, the reasons why projects fail and recommendations on how these failures can be averted or mitigated using project management techniques. The paper will take England’s 2018 world cup host bid that failed as the case study. The bid will be regarded as a failed project for the purpose of this study.
The researcher will explain why they have selected this bid as a failed project, recognising the various aspects of the project that identify it as so. Second, the project will be critically analysed with the aim of detailing the probable underlying reasons on why the project failed. Finally, recommendations will be provided on how effective project management could have helped in averting the failure.
England’s World Cup’s 2018 Host Bid: An Overview
It is important at this juncture to take a look at the bid and the various aspects that surrounded it. This will provide a context for the rest of the discourse that will follow throughout the paper. This overview will also highlight on some of the aspects of this bid that qualified it as a project worth noting.
The bidding process has a long time frame, having been set in motion in the year 2007. On October 31 this year, England’s Football Association (herein referred to as FA) announced that the country will be placing a bid to host the 2018 world cup finals (Fitzgerald 2010). This set the start date for the bid, giving it an appearance of a project. The following year mostly involved the compilation of the team that will head the bid.
On October 12 2008, Lord Triesman, who was the Football Association chairman at the time, was appointed and confirmed as the chairman of the team that will be pushing the bid (Seamark, Shipman and Martin 2010). Board members and other technical support staff are named and confirmed this year. This culminated in the appointment of Andy Anson as the chief executive of the bid team (Seamark et al 2010).
On January 27, the official bid is submitted to FIFA (Fitzgerald 2010), and this was followed shortly by the official launch of the bid on May 18 (Nakrani 2010). The latter took place in Wembley stadium, a star studded event that brought together David Beckham, Wayne Rooney and Gordon Brown, creating a nexus between sports and politics in the bid (Nakrani 2010).
The bid process faced a lot of challenges, ranging from media criticism to resignation of board members. For example, the board team was criticised for leaving out members of the England premier league, and this led to a hasty inclusion of Sir Richards into the team (Nakrani 2010).
The team is also criticised for the slow progress it was making, with the public fearing that the deadline for the submission of the bid will not be met. Later on in the year, sir Richards resigned from the board, creating another round of negative publicity for the bid team.
On May 14 2010, the bid book is officially presented to FIFA president Sepp Blatter in the federation’s headquarters in Zürich, Switzerland (Seamark et al 2010).
A crisis was to follow two days after the submission of the bid book, as the chairman resigned following a scandal in which he was taped making negative comments about the conduct of some countries in 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa. His place is taken by Geoff Thomson, a few months into the announcement of the successful bid by FIFA.
On December 2, 2010, the announcement is made after 22 FIFA officials have cast their votes. England is eliminated in the first round of the voting, having attained only two votes. Russia emerges victorious in the second round of voting, winning the bid to host 2018 world cup finals (Nakrani 2010).
There are several reasons that are cited as having led to the failure of the bid, given the fact that England’s bid was regarded as one of the best technically. The chief executive of the bid team was of the view that last minute switch of sides by members of the voting team may have led to the loss.
There are also aspersions that a media exposure by BBC into the alleged corruption of FIFA top officials may have played against the country’s bid. Prince William, Prime Minister David Cameron and the bid team chief executive Andy Anson had spent the last hours leading to the voting lobbying the FIFA officials that were going to vote, but this did little to create a win for the nation (Seamark et al 2010).
The bid had several characteristics that defined it as a project. For example, it had a budget, which was set at 15 million pounds, a characteristic of a budget.
The activities of the bid were temporary, and had a clear commencement and end date. There were also individuals or members of staff that were involved in actualising the activities of the bid. Given the fact that the objectives of the bid were not achieved, it can be regarded as a failed project.
England’s 2018 World Cup Host Bid: A Failed Project
There are several characteristics that are distinct to a failed or a failing project. An analysis of a project that has already failed reveals that there are features that separate it from a project that was considered as a success. Similarly, a project that is on its way to failure can be distinguished from a project that is destined for success (Bernard 2007).
England’s world cup 2018 host bid was identified earlier in this paper as a form of a project. It was later regarded as a failed project, given the fact that it shares some distinct characteristics with a typical failed project. These characteristics are as discussed below:
Lack of Planning
One major characteristic of a failed project is the fact that it lacks planning. Meredith (2008) is of the view that project planning is one of the most important stages in the project cycle.
This is given the fact that it is at this stage potential risks and obstacles that could hinder the implementation of the project are identified. However, if the project is implemented without sufficient planning, it is likely that some issues will emerge during project implementation and they will endanger the success of the project.
A critical analysis of England’s bid will reveal that there was little planning that went into the project, if any. It is a fact beyond doubt that a feasibility study was carried out before the initiation of the bid (Nakrani 2010).
However, apart from the feasibility study, there was no other discernible form of planning that went into the implementation of the bid. For example, there was no collection of data regarding the attitude of FIFA towards the bid.
The bid team relied on comments that were made to media by Sepp Blatter and other officials of FIFA regarding the likelihood of England’s success in the bidding process (Seamark et al 2010). There was no scientific collection of data before the implementation or initiation of the bid.
Another major characteristic of a failed project is the fact that it fails to meet the objectives specified in the mission and vision of the project (Kerzner 2001).
When every project is initiated, the intention of the implementers is to meet certain objectives or goals. The inputs in the project are organised in such a way that specified outputs are met. However, there are cases where, for a number of reasons, the outputs desired or envisaged are not attained.
The bid placed by England was no exception to this end. The inputs, which included the money used, the activities of the bid members among others were meant to attain specified outputs. The aim was to successfully lobby the FIFA officials to make them vote for England to host the world cup finals.
However, this was not attained, and as such, the project can be regarded as having failed. The bid team was unable to convince the FIFA officials to vote for England, meaning that all the inputs that were used in the project did not give rise to the desired outputs.
Lack of Stakeholders’ Representation
It is noted that most of the projects that are regarded as failures have failed to include all the stakeholders in the planning and implementation of the project.
There are several stakeholders in a project, and the number and type of stakeholders depend on the type of project that is being implemented (Pinto 2007). They may include the end users, the project financiers, and the implementers among others. All of them need to be included in every step of the project cycle.
A critical analysis of England’s bid, an analysis done through the lens of project management, will reveal that some stakeholders were left out of the process.
This means that the perspectives of those stakeholders that were left out were not taken into consideration during the implementation of the project. For example, the premier league is a critical stakeholder in England’s football. This being the case, it was a foregone conclusion that this team would be included in the bid team.
However, this was not the case. It was only on March 2009, two years after the bid process was initiated, that the premier league was included in the bid (Seamark et al 2010).
This was after criticisms were levelled at the technical team in the bid committee, and the representative of the premier league, Dave Richards, was only in the team for a period of eight months. He resigned on November 24 the same year, meaning that the premier league was not represented in a larger part of the bid process.
Low Staff Morale
According to Hides, Irani, Polychronakis and Sharp (2000), there is need throughout the life of the project to maintain the morale of the members of staff that are involved in the implementation of the project. This ensures that all the members of the team act in unison, pulling in the same direction. However, if there is no staff morale, the members of the team are likely to act individually, and coherence of action will be lacking.
Low staff morale manifests itself in high rate of staff turnover, infighting within the team, lack of co-operation among others. These characteristics were visible in the bid project, indicating low staff morale and in extension, a failed project. For example, there was a lot of infighting within the bid team.
For example, on November 16th, 2009, Kris Dent, who was the communications director of the team, withdraws from the bid team (Nakrani 2010). He is followed shortly by premier league chairman, Dave Richards, who withdraws on November 24th, the same year.
The latter cites infighting in the bid team as the major reason why he withdrew. These are all indications of the fact that things were not good within the bid team. There was low morale, which might have led to the failure of the project.
England’s 2018 World Cup Host Bid: Why Did the Project Fail?
There are several reasons why the England’s bid to host the 2018 world cup finals was a failure. Several factors led to this failure, and these factors will be analysed in this section.
Every project, as earlier indicated, has inputs and outputs. The inputs are integrated during the activities of the project, and they give rise to the outputs. The figure below depicts the relationship between inputs (resource), activities (function) and the outputs (performance) of a project:
Figure 1: Project Inputs and Outputs
Source: Frese and Sauter 2003
Going back to the England’s bid, it is obvious that the inputs did not give rise to the desired outputs. Something might have gone wrong either during the input stage, or during the activities or functions of the project. A detailed analysis of possible underlying reasons for failure follows:
Poor Risk Management
Every project is likely to face unexpected events in the course of implementation, events that may put at risk of becoming a failure. These are what Maylor (2002) refers to as risks. These unexpected happenstances may lead to delays or budget overruns, making the project a failure. This is for example when the project runs out of resources in the course of implementation due to unforeseen increase in the price of inputs.
Another factor that may lead to this is when members of staff start leaving, leading to deficiency of technical expertise in the project. Other unforeseen events may be external to the project, such as change in environment and such others. One unforeseen event may lead to a domino effect, where other events come on its wake, further jeopardising the project.
This being the case, there is a need to take formal risk management during the planning stage of the project cycle. This is where contingency plans are put in place to cushion the project against unforeseen events. This is for example setting aside some extra funds to cater for budget overruns.
The bid by England appeared to be mired by a lot of risks in the course of implementation, risks that the project manager, in this case Andy Anson, appeared ill prepared for. One of them is the investigative piece that was done by BBC on the corrupt dealings of the FIFA officials.
Andy Anson appeared unable to respond to this risk, and this is one of the reasons why the FIFA officials failed to vote for England. There were also other cases of negative media publicity. This is for example when Lord Triesman was secretly recorded by the media making negative comments regarding the 2010 FIFA world cup finals in South Africa.
This happens when the project manager underestimates the requirements of the project. For example, the project manager may assume that the project will take a short time to be fully implemented, failing to take into account unforeseen events that may hinder it. The project manager may have lacked enough information or knowledge regarding the full extent of the project (Burke 2006).
The England bid team appeared to be over-confident, assuming that the country will win the bid and the bidding process was just a formality. Their spirits were falsely buoyed by comments that were made to media by some of the FIFA officials. For example, on July 5th, 2009, FIFA official Franz Beckenbauer said that England was ready to host the finals “tomorrow” (Seamark et al 2010).
The bid team appeared to be arrogant in the process of making the bid, as they assumed that the country will win the hosting bid. They failed to plan for unforeseen events such as the switching sides of some of the delegates a few days before the voting process.
Lack of Project Management
Pinto (2007) is of the view that some project managers fail to plan for their project for several reasons. For example, the deadline may be tight, meaning that they lack to take a detailed project planning before the onset of the project. This means that when the project gets out of control in the process of implementation, it is hard to recover it due to lack of contingency plans.
As earlier indicated, there was no adequate planning in the bidding process. There were a lot of assumptions made by the bid team members, for example the fact that they stood a better chance to win the bid. As such, the bidding process, or the project, was just a formality.
Recommendations: How Effective Project Management Could Have Helped Avert the Project Failure
How to Handle Poor Risk Management
To avert the failure that comes with poor risk management, there are several strategies that the project manager can adopt. One of them is listing all the activities that need to be carried out in the course of the project. During this listing, potential risks will be identified.
It is also important for the project management to try and figure out what can possibly go wrong in the course of project implementation (Reiss 2005). To this end, project managers are advised to avoid looking at only the major risks that may occur; they should look at the small risks also, as these may get out of control and endanger the project.
Each of the risks identified needs to be prioritised, meaning that they need to be listed as high, medium or low (McManus and Trevor 2011: Hinchcliffe 2009). The prioritised should be in terms of the likelihood of the risk to occur, and the impact that the risk is likely to have on the project (Meredith 2008: Bernard 2007).
Plans should then be made on how to deal with the risks, depending on their likelihood to occur and the impact on the project.
Andy Anson and the bid team should have planned for these risks before the implementation of the project. In this phase of planning, possible risks such as the negative publicity from the media, the switching of sides of the delegates and such others would have been identified. Prioritising of the risks would have enabled the bid team to come up with contingency plans to deal with the risks.
Project Management and Over Optimism
One of the strategies to deal with this problem is to take enough time before the implementation of the project to comprehend the work that will be carried out during the implementation (Bernard 2007: Frese and Sauter 2003).
If the project manager feels that the project is not possible, or it is hard to attain the objectives of the project using the resources set aside for the project, they should communicate the same to the stakeholders such as the financiers.
The manager should ensure that they agree to the project only if they are sure that the project can be implemented (Meredith 2008). This will help in averting failures or challenges that may be insurmountable as the project is underway (Meredith 2008).
These are the strategies that the bid team should have adopted to avoid the pitfalls of over optimism. Instead of blindly agreeing to the task, Anson Andy and his colleagues should have taken the time to fully understand all the dynamics that might have come into play during the implementation. For example, they should have taken into consideration the fact that they were dealing with humans, who are very unpredictable.
Anson and colleagues should have taken into consideration the fact that there are many things that would have gone wrong in the implementation of the project. For example, even if the country stood a good chance of winning the bid, they should have been aware of the fact that England being the mother of football is not enough to win the bid.
Lack of Project Management
Project managers should be aware of the fact that project planning is very important, and it is like creating a road map for the whole project cycle (Reiss 2005). This is the roadmap that will be followed during the implementation of the project, with alterations as necessary. Adjustments should be made to the project plan as needed, given the fact that there are unseen events that may arise during the implementation of the project.
A project that is not planned is likely to fail, given the fact that the environment within which the project is carried out is very unpredictable. Things can change without notice, and if the project manager was not prepared for these changes, the project is likely to fail.
Anson Andy and the rest of the bid team needed to carry out project management to attain the objectives of the project. Apart from the feasibility study that was carried out, there was not any other form of planning that was evident in the whole of the bidding process.
This means that the bidding team was ill prepared for the changes that they encountered during the implementation of the bid. For example, they had not planned on the action to take should the delegates they were relying on switched sides.
This lack of preparation was evident in the reactions of the bid team when the country lost the bid to Russia. Anson was quoted as saying that “it really (hurts) when people you were counting on let you down” (Nakrani 2010: 3). This means that they had not planned for such an event.
Not all projects that are initiated ends up as successes, despite the fact that a huge amount of resources may have been used on the project. There are several reasons that make a project be regarded as a failure. This is for example when the project fails to achieve the objectives envisaged, or when the budget overruns the budget or deadline set aside. This failure if brought about by several factors.
This is for example the lack of planning on the part of the project management team, over optimism and lack of project management. This is in addition to poor risk management, meaning that there were not contingency plans that were in place.
This paper looked at England’s bid to host 2018 world cup finals, a project that was deemed as a failure. The project was a failure because it failed to achieve the objectives set and it had no discernible plan among other factors. The project also lacked risk management, was mired my over optimism and lacked project management. Recommendations on how project management may have averted this failure were identified.
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