Causes of Delay

Why are projects late?

If we ask people of a project why they are late, they have a lot of excuses, usually external factors being the cause of delays. If we ask them what we could have done about it, they easily have suggestions. The problem is that we don’t do something about it. One of the problems is that customers fatalistically think that this is the way it is and keep paying. If the customers would insist on the delivery date or else wouldn’t pay, the problem would have been solved a long time ago.
Some typical causes of delay are (no particular order):

  • Unclear Requirements
  • Changing requirements (they do change anyway)
  • No Stakeholder feedback
  • No adequate planning
  • No adequate communication
  • Misunderstanding
  • Waiting (before and during the project)
  • Indecisiveness
  • No Sense of Urgency
  • Doing things wrong
  • Doing unnecessary things
  • Doing things over again
  • Doing things less cleverly than we could
  • Suppliers being late
  • Suppliers delivering inadequate quality
  • Hobbies
  • Political ploys
  • Boss is always right (cultural issues)

The only justifiable cost is the cost of developing the right things at the right time. This looks like perfection and we know that people are not perfect. That is, however, not a license to fatally accept all these delays. A lot of delay is avoidable and therefore unjustifiable. Besides, most of these causes happen in every project, so these should never be a valid excuse for project failure. If a project manager doesn’t know how to handle these, he’s still a junior. Every time I hear such excuses in actual projects, I use what I call the bullshit-stamp (figure), which makes people quickly learn not to use these bullshit excuses any more.

In order to help people start working on removing these causes, let's list some causes of causes of delay:

figure: Bullshit stamp

  • Amateur management
  • No Sense of Urgency
  • Uncertainty
  • Perceived weakness
  • Fear of Failure
  • Ignorance
  • Incompetence
  • Politics
  • Indifference
  • Discipline
  • Intuition
  • Perception
  • Lack of time
  • Lack of Zero Defects attitude
  • No techniques offered
  • No empowerment
  • So called Scientific Management Techniques
  • No dissemination through the whole organization