Who Is Accountable For A Failed Project?

The PM is responsible for the delivery of the project. However, Projects do not fail suddenly. Usually, the PM has hidden (greened up the status report) bad news from stakeholders because the PM did not want to face criticism. I found this to be common with PM’s that wanted to be ladder climbers in the enterprise. Future CEO candidates cannot have problems on their resumes.
Making sure the stakeholders have accurate and timely information on project progress is the PM’s responsibility. Otherwise executives do not have the accurate information for decision making. It is easy to report everything is on-time, within budget, and following specs. It is hard to tell the decision makers stuff is going bad. So when the storm comes the PM has to take the hit.

But the real question is: are you looking for whom to blame, or who/what is really the reason for this project’s failure?
If you are looking for whom to blame, than the Project Manager is always there. The PM is at the line of fire, and as such will get hit with the first salvo, as the most opportune target.
If you are looking for the real reason for the project’s failure, than you have to do what most organizations fail to do: thorough debriefing of anyone involved. This study is supposed to give us the real reasons for the failure. Management doesn’t like such studies for two main reasons:
The first being it takes some time, and of course resources, that they are not willing to allocate, as the project is dead and done with, in their eyes. They fail to see the long term benefit of such study.
The second reason being it might implicate management, pure and simple. In their eyes, nobody touches management.
In the long term, more and more projects will fail, in this organization and others like it, because this management, like so many others, fails to see the long term benefits of correct project closure, even for failed one.
More over, management will not conduct a project.

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