Copyright: Joe Marasco © 2015.
Published here October 2015.

Editor's Note | Introduction | Definition of "Success" | The Team
Interaction between Project Class, Process Effectiveness and Team Strength
Commentary on the Nomogram | Conclusion | Editor's Postscript


Once you have selected your project class and estimated PE and TS, you can use the nomogram to compute the success percentage. Predicting project success is a delicate art, and the nomogram puts numbers to the various assumptions we implicitly make about how the various factors influence the outcome. If nothing else, it provides a unifying framework.

Having used the nomogram to approximate the probability of success, you can vary TS and PE and do a sensitivity analysis, judging how much you need to elevate TS or PE or both in order to improve your odds. Replacing lower-performing team members with better ones, and working to achieve greater teamwork can raise TS. PE can usually not be improved by tinkering with the process, and changing it completely in mid-project is almost always catastrophic. On the other hand, any methodology can be made more effective through assiduous project management. Remember that the implementation of any process is the key to its effectiveness.

I encourage you to imagine different projects across a wide range of classes, and to try different team and process combinations. Play with the nomogram to gain confidence with it. If the results of your trials convince you that it yields reasonable answers, you will be more inclined to use it in new situations.

Different nomograms can be constructed with different assumptions. For example, one could choose a project class percentage offset of 5% instead of 10%. Similarly, the people vs. process ratios could be reduced from 3:1 and 2:1 to only 2:1 and 1.5:1. I deliberately chose large values to test the limits and to produce stark differences. You may want something a bit more subtle.

Finally, remember that this is an approximation tool. It can only be as good as the validity of its assumptions and the quality of the input. Results should be taken with a healthy dose of skepticism, and with the idea that what the nomogram provides is a starting point for deeper analysis. I'd love it if a PM did the analysis and came up with 40%, when he thought he had a better-than-even chance of success.

Now the crucial step: If he chucks the whole thing as useless, then we haven't gotten much for our efforts; our ROI is negative. On the other hand, if he says, "Sonja Henie's tutu! That's a surprise. Let me check my assumptions about the project's class, and then have a closer look at PE and TS. Perhaps I have been too optimistic." That's when the real work begins, work that may in fact increase the odds that the project is ultimately successful.

I would welcome feedback on the approach and its implementation. Send me an Email to

Commentary on the Nomogram  Commentary on the Nomogram

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