Information systems project post-mortems: Insights from an attribution perspective

Gary Pan, Shan L. Pan, Michael Newman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Information systems (IS) project failure is a costly and common problem. This is despite advances in development tools and technologies. In this article, we argue that one reason for this is the failure of project postmortems to generate constructive "lessons learned" from previous projects. Over time, the ineffective practices would persist in the organization, rendering it resistant to change. The attribution theory literature serves as one of the few promising theoretical bases to explain why project post-mortems fail. A case study of a project post-mortem undertaken for an abandoned electronic procurement system project is discussed and analyzed. We identify five antecedent conditions of attribution error: the presence of self-appointed mindsets, the general persistence of negative beliefs, memory decay, selective recall of project events and the influence of power dynamics within the organization. We discuss the research and practical implications of these findings and suggest how the problem of attribution error may be minimized in project post-mortems.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2255-2268
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology
Issue number14
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2007


Dive into the research topics of 'Information systems project post-mortems: Insights from an attribution perspective'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this