Imagine a World Where All Projects Succeed

PM ChangeAgent Commentary by Stacy Goff.

Succeed, and you should win a Trophy!I have used this article’s title as my kick-off phrase at many project-related keynotes and presentations over the last few years. Most audiences immediately “lean into” the thought, and its ramifications. For example, in Moscow, Hong Kong, Beijing, Tianjin, Brussels, and in the USA, my audiences immediately took notice. They immediately became engaged, and were eager to hear more.

This August (2015) was the first exception I’ve had to that typical reaction: As I voiced the introductory statement, I immediately detected disbelief among many in my audience. This was at one of the USA’s best PM Symposiums. This is one of the best because of the high-level audiences, the speaker selection process, and excellent event organization.

My Reaction

When I sensed this audience’s disbelief, I immediately asked a question. “How many think this (for all projects to succeed) is even possible?” Less than a quarter raised their hands. So I launched into an extended introduction, pointing out that …

  • Project managers cannot improve project (and business) success just by working harder. Most of us are already working our hearts out.
  • Nor can we improve performance by sending people to still more training.
  • Our team members? They are not only committed to our projects—they are over-committed.
  • And our stakeholders? They are engaged, and expect us to continue to make miracles happen.

No, (I asserted) it is our layers of managers, from first-level to the executive suite, who hold the keys to higher levels of success. And (I said), the purpose of this presentation is to the key insights that help organizations improve PM performance—and business success. The paper that supports that presentation is available here on our website. It is also at PM World Journal. However, the purpose of this article is to further explore this question of disbelief.

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Exploring Success Factors and Measures; 2 of 2

PM Commentary by Stacy Goff.
This is part two of our two-part post on Success Factors and Measures. Two independent events last month (a magazine interview and a webinar) resonated around a frequently-discussed, but often disputed topic: What is project success, and how do you achieve it? The events covered two aspects of project success: the Success Factors (that lead to project success) and the Success Measures (used to evaluate success). This posting covers the Success Measures.

The Success Measures

Tim Jaques and Frank Salidis ran the latest webinar in the IPMA-USA 2010 Dialogue series the first week of July. The topic was Perspectives on Project Success: Excellence in Project Management. The well-presented and discussed Dialogue was excellent, but there is much more to the topic than an hour’s time. Some of the key points included the fact that the Triple Constraint is merely a project measure. It is certainly not as important to the end-user as such hard-to-measure items as business results and customer satisfaction.

Other points included discussions about tangible and intangible value, including Return On Investment, and Stakeholder satisfaction.  Perceived failures, at least according to project measures, may be successes by the time of product success measurement. A key example provided was the Sydney Opera House. The distinction made: Project outputs versus project outcomes.

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Exploring Success Factors and Measures; 1 of 2

PM Commentary by Stacy Goff.
The last month brought us two interesting media events, an interview for a CIO magazine article and a Dialogue webinar. Both covered key aspects of project success. Though independent events, both showed synchronicity around a frequently-discussed, but often disputed topic: What is success, and how do you achieve and measure it? The events covered two aspects of project success, the Success Factors (that lead to success) and the Success Measures (used to evaluate success). This first of two postings covers the Success Factors.

The Success Factors

Success Factors are the activities or factors in a project that are essential for it to meet its goals and expectations. They are enablers of success. We recently participated in an interview for the CIO magazine article, IT Project Management: 10 Less-Considered Keys to Success. The article explored comments in a discussion at the magazine’s CIO Forum LinkedIn group (the article link is now at ComputerWorld). The lively discussion revolved around the most important, but least-well-known Success Factors, for a successful IT project.

The first-mentioned Success Factor was (drumroll, please) A Clear Definition of Success. And, while the forum and article targeted CIOs and Information Technology projects, most of the comments apply to most project types. One participant commented that too often success is based merely on elements of the “triple constraint”. He commented that project teams need to understand the expected value proposition of the project—and then achieve it.

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