An integrated approach to learning from project-related failures

Danstan Bwalya Chiponde*, Barry Gledson, David Greenwood

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Project Based Organisations (PBOs) are established to optimise project delivery. Unfortunately, as failures still occur on projects, the anticipated performance enhancements of PBOs have not lived up to expectations to date. This has led to interest in how PBOs learn from project-related failures. Regrettably, despite considerable financial investment on projects, particularly infrastructure projects, there is limited research on learning from project failures. Hence, the aim of this study was to assess the practices and behaviours of project-based actors and organisations towards learning from project-related failures. To achieve that, semistructured interviews were conducted with construction project management practitioners. Results reveal that systematic attempts to learn from project-related failures are rare. Barriers relate to the temporary and fragmented nature of projects, the negative perceptions around failure, and the fear of being blamed or punished for failure(s). Where such learning exists within PBOs, mechanisms such as project reports and project review meetings are typically used. The cause of project failures ranges from the actions of project actors themselves such as the project manager, designers, contractors and the client, to external events such as financing and technological challenges. The implication for project actors is that instead of relying on ad-hoc learning mechanisms, systemic and sector-wide approaches should be encouraged. This is by integrating the following six facets in the process of learning from failures: structure; culture; psychological; safety; policy; context, and; technology.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings 36th Annual ARCOM Conference
EditorsLloyd Scott, Christopher J. Neilson
PublisherAssociation of Researchers in Construction Management (ARCOM)
Number of pages9
ISBN (Electronic)9780995546332
Publication statusPublished - 2020
Event36th Annual Conference on Association of Researchers in Construction Management, ARCOM 2020 - Virtual, Online, United Kingdom
Duration: 7 Sept 20208 Sept 2020

Publication series

NameARCOM 2020 - Association of Researchers in Construction Management, 36th Annual Conference 2020 - Proceedings


Conference36th Annual Conference on Association of Researchers in Construction Management, ARCOM 2020
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
CityVirtual, Online


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