When to Call It Quits on a Project


When to Call It Quits on a ProjectOn August 10th, I hosted the latest meeting of the Aite-Novarica Women’s Network on when to call it quits on a project. We were joined by two guest panelists, Traci Ducceschi, Director, Planning & Project Management at Penn National and Melissa Hunting, Project Manager at Global Indemnity Group, who shared their perspectives on why projects get cancelled, navigating projects that should have been cancelled, and the implications of cancelling a project.

Why Projects Get Cancelled

Oftentimes, projects get cancelled because of changing business priorities, consistently missed deliverables, and escalating costs and time frames. These issues can become more significant the longer a project extends beyond original date expectations. It is critical to maintain good communication between the project team, sponsors, and any vendors to ensure alignment of both current and future goals.

Projects That Should Have Been Cancelled

A common characteristic of projects that continue too long is the focus on sunk costs vs. value. Money already spent on a project can’t be recouped. Project teams that have established success criteria and standard checkpoints are in a better position to avoid project continuation when the value is no longer there. It is easy to think that just a bit more time or money will get the project back on track, but more often than not these are false hopes.

Implications of Cancelling a Project

When a project gets cancelled, those involved may lose morale when thinking of the hours dedicated to a project that has been shut down. Sponsor communication is key to employees maintaining focus on the business reasons for cancellation rather than feeling like they are to blame for the failure.

It’s important to rapidly reassign impacted resources to other initiatives. Project managers should be transparent by acknowledging the issues that arose during the project, highlighting the lessons learned, and applying them to future projects.

The next virtual meeting of the Aite-Novarica Women’s Network, A View from the Top: Experiences of Women CEOs, will take place on September 28th, led by Aite-Novarica Group’s Head of Property & Casualty Insurance Martina Conlon. More information is available at