Governance failure is as normal as governance success, but different forms of governance fail in different ways, and some failures can be linked to specific governance styles. This makes failure to some extent predictable, which is important because of the high cost of non-implementation of policy goals. With respect to the SDGs, governance failure risks that the Goals and targets will not be met by 2030. After an introduction on the linkages between policy failure and governance failure, the inherent weaknesses of hierarchical, network and market governance are discussed. Failures can be persistent and recurrent, and dealing with them requires understanding their ‘meta-causes’ such as the capacity of policy actors and the design of policy processes and institutions. Three types of governance failure which are linked to these ‘root causes’, namely capacity, design and management failures, are introduced in some detail. Experience, intuition and training should support detecting governance failure in an early stage.