• Question: Have you done any projects that have failed? If so, if you could go back and change one thing you did, what would it be?

    Asked by JumaimaC on 24 Jun 2020.
    • Photo: Tom Stewart-Brackenridge

      Tom Stewart-Brackenridge answered on 24 Jun 2020:


      Yes, I have worked on projects that have failed. Although it doesn’t look good from an engineer’s point of view, Sometimes we have to accept these failed projects and learn from them so they do not happen again. I would change the way I went about the project; I always like a second and sometimes third opinion in my work. Not because I am incompetent to do the job, I am fully qualified, but so I can see things I may have missed from someone else’s point of view. People do correct and ask me to edit my work/projects, not because they are wrong but because they can be improved and made better. I always strive for high quality and a successful product when finished.

    • Photo: Neil Runciman

      Neil Runciman answered on 24 Jun 2020:


      I have managed a number of projects that have failed (and a number of projects I have recovered from failure). By the definition of a project, a one-off activity, not routine, some projects will fail despite all the project team’s valiant efforts. The biggest single issue is recognizing when you have reached that point in the project when failure is the only outcome, then quickly and decisively killing the project.
      There are many reasons for failure, but probably the biggest single reason for failure is a lack of clarity of the objective(s) at the outset, followed by having an objective(s) that are too ambitious.

    • Photo: Oana Lazar

      Oana Lazar answered on 25 Jun 2020:


      I’m still at university and just finished my 3rd year. I’ll answer for this level as I don’t think you generally tend to realise that things can go wrong with coursework as well, not just in the workplace after university. For one of my biggest projects this year, I was looking into something which hadn’t been done before, and I was using programs which I hadn’t even heard of before, so everything was very new to me. This meant that I couldn’t tell from the start that what I was trying to to wouldn’t work, so it was only at the last minute that I realised I couldn’t meet my goal and had “failed”. But when I looked into why my idea didn’t work, I actually made a completely new discovery which I’m writing about now! Since this new discovery is actually much better than my original idea, I’m sort of happy that my project failed! I just wish that I had realised sooner so that I could have enough time to finish writing up the report for my project, so I would change one thing: instead of assuming the idea would work from the start and spending a lot of time getting data, I would have gotten some data and just tested it out a bit to see if the general idea was worth looking into in the first place.

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