In just about any movie or book that includes a military presence, there is more than likely a line of dialogue by the hero or General to the effect of, \u201cFailure is NOT an option!\u201d Perhaps, when aliens are taking over the earth and probably going to destroy all of humanity that could arguably be true. However, I think when it comes to project management that is not true\u2026 not by a long shot. Many of us have pulled ourselves from the smoking ruins of a project to say, \u201cWhat happened?\u201d and \u201cHow did this not succeed?\u201d\nA study by PricewaterhouseCoopers, which reviewed 10,640 projects from 200 companies in 30 countries and across various industries, found that only 2.5% of the companies successfully completed 100% of their projects. A study published in the Harvard Business Review, which analyzed 1,471 IT projects, found that the average overrun was 27%, but one in six projects had a cost overrun of 200% on average and a schedule overrun of almost 70%. And we all have heard about large construction projects -- the Channel Tunnel, Euro Disney, and Boston's "Big Dig" -- that ended up costing almost double their original estimate.\u00a0 \nThe great thing about success is that it encourages us to take more risks, try more, innovate more, and engage more. The natural outcome is that there will be times when we overreach, commit too many resources, and don\u2019t perform the appropriate risk analysis. That\u2019s when failure might occur.\u00a0 And that\u2019s when we close the project and shake our heads in disappointment.\u00a0 So, what\u2019s the solution? Do we simply play it safe? Do we not take on projects where there is a great amount of risk?\nThe short answer?\u00a0 No.\nThe longer answer? Heck no!\nI have had more successful projects than failed projects, but I can guarantee that I wouldn\u2019t have had the winning season without the losses. Here are a few things that I\u2019ve learned along the way that helped me when I had to tell Sr. Management that the project was finished, and unsuccessfully finished at that.\nRisk management is real\nOne of my fellow PMPs, J Ashley Hunt, referred to herself as a \u201ccatastrophic thinker.\u201d\u00a0 In other words, she was always looking for the \u201cwhat ifs.\u201d I kiddingly called her Monte Carlo.\u00a0 It\u2019s not like I didn\u2019t do Qualitative and Quantitative Risk Analysis, instead I didn\u2019t foresee any of those medium impact risks occurring. In the Bible there\u2019s a verse, \u201cthe little foxes spoil the vineyard.\u201d\u00a0 Yes, a big risk event can bring you down, but so can the death of a thousand little risks. Use your failed project and do some serious reverse risk analysis. At what point did things go south? Who and what policies were involved? Were there any warnings or triggers that might have gone unnoticed? Was the mitigation\/transference\/avoidance up to the task?\nLessons learned aren\u2019t just on the exam\nThere\u2019s a joke about how the answer on the PMP exam question of \u201cWhat input is used for such and such?\u201d is the WBS (work breakdown structure), and that the answer to \u201cWhat is the primary output of such and such?\u201d is lessons learned.\u00a0 The other aspect is that lessons learned is not just a one-off meeting at the end of the project. I strongly believe that at each phase or major milestone, there should be a debriefing with your team. If your team is too large, then break it down into sub groups and then have those team leaders meet with you to discuss the gathered details. This ONE thing alone helped turn around a development project I was working on with Cisco.\nThe bottom line is don\u2019t get down on yourself too much. Shake off the dust, admit what you did wrong, and then get back into the game. Many of you have probably heard about the man who was defeated for state legislature, failed in his business a year later, lost his sweetheart two years later, had a nervous breakdown a year after that, tried again for Congress and lost, was rejected to be a land officer, defeated for US Senate twice, and lost his re-nomination for Congress. That man was Abraham Lincoln. He was elected President two years after his final Senatorial defeat. Failure is an option.