Whether it’s large-scale, international product development, an IT initiative, a reorganisation or relocation, or something as seemingly simple as defining KPIs: most of us are more or less permanently involved in at least one project. That means that projects are a consistent factor in our lives, and yet so many fail. Why? And how can failure be avoided? Given their omnipresence, it would seem sensible to reflect on why, despite having become a normal part of everyday life, so many projects go wrong. Depending on which statistics are used and which timeframe is applied, around two thirds of projects are completed behind schedule, at a higher cost, or without the results originally envisioned; around one sixth of projects are complete failures. To make the issue easier to grasp, in this essay we will be focussing on projects of a significant size – i.e. of special importance and defined as “mission critical”. We call them “elephants” because, if they’re allowed to, they have a tendency break loose and go on disorientated rampages through entire companies, by which stage it is too late to put them down – and, mysteriously, their original handlers have slunk away into the swirling dust.