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

Joe Marasco is the author of The Software Development Edge: Essays on Managing Successful Projects, published by Addison Wesley in 2005. His interests include modeling organizational behavior to improve performance and profitability. He can be reached at

Editor's Note:

When starting out, we all want our projects to be successful. But how realistic is that? The first problem is that "success" itself is a multi-dimensional construct. For example, are we talking about the success of the project, i.e., of the project's management, or are we talking about the success of the product? While the latter is the favored position of outsiders, the reality is that the success of the product is typically the responsibility of those who deploy the resulting product. And that is also typically beyond the purview of the project manager!

So let's get back to project management. Traditionally, we might meet any one of being on time, within budget, or to quality standards, or better yet to all three. Obviously meeting all three has a much lower probability than meeting any one, or two, of the foregoing.

However, more sophisticated texts turn to some form of "client satisfaction" most likely in terms of inherent value or as an enabler of value creation and so on. Measuring success in this form is even more problematic, as it requires the project manager to make a distinct change in focus in all project decision-making throughout the project. But one thing we do know for certain is this: without an experienced team in all required disciplines and a solid and well-planned process to follow, the project is certain to fail across some or all success criteria.

So now we may get closer to the heart of the matter by posing the question: Which is the more important to the success of the project, the strength of the team or the effectiveness of the process they use? But then there is the question of what type of project, or projects, are we talking about? How risky are they in the first place? And if very "risky", then intuitively we might expect failure to be a higher probability.

In a recent paper we read that for a commercial business whose lifeblood depends on project work, and where projects range from the slam-dunk to the highly technologically innovative, a reasonable corporate annual planning target is a success rate of 70%. That is a failure rate of almost one in three! So, as a project manager, you probably want to know where you stand on your project.

This is a complex problem to grapple with, but Joe Marasco is up to the task with his ability to design a graphical solution and present it as a nomogram. Read Joe's paper that follows to see how it works, and then make an assessment for your project!


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