This paper is the first of a four-part series in which an attempt has been made to capture the collective wisdom of the leading participants in an extended LinkedIn discussion over the first six months of 2014. The actual original texts have been edited for grammar and spelling to make for easier reading online. The observations quoted are the opinions and property of the contributors as noted.

Published here August 2014.

Editor's Note | PMBOK Definition Woefully Deficient | PMBOK Definition Not Deficient
Project and Product Management Not the Same | PMBOK Fine So Far as it Goes
Useful References | What Wikipedia Has to Say | Success Has Multiple Dimensions | PART 2

Bill Duncan:[5] PMBOK Definition Woefully Deficient

@Matthew: the definition of success you quoted is basically the traditional definition ... and it is woefully deficient and outdated. First, "project success" has two dimensions:

  • Product success: did the project deliver the benefits expected?
  • Project management success: was the project well-managed?

Your quoted definition addresses only the second dimension. More significantly, project success must be measured against agreed success criteria. The baselines seldom represent real success.

As you note in your reply, this success is from the project manager's perspective, and from that perspective only. I agree that product success is not the direct responsibility of the project manager, but they must still be aware of what is needed for product success and do everything they can to deliver it. Here are some simple examples ... the Sydney Opera House is a failed project. The Boeing 787 is a success. Really?

@Matthew: You say: "Why is everyone so anxious to take on responsibility as project manager for something they were never asked, never involved in, and have no role or influence in?!" I don't think that anyone is asking the project manager to take responsibility for product success. I know I'm not. But in point of fact, the project manager has the potential to make a substantial contribution to product success. For the PM to ignore that potential is a step back into the 1950s.

Let's take a look at your example: The project that you describe was a success from Company A's perspective, but a total failure from Company B's perspective. You are right to celebrate project management success, but not project success. Project success must consider a broader range of stakeholders.

@Matthew: you may disagree, but if you go back and look at my first post, you'll see that I said from the start that there were two different constructs: product success and project management success. These two together define "project success."[6] The PMBoK Guide just got it wrong this time by referring to "project management success" as "project success."

Editor's Note  Editor's Note

5. William R. Duncan, Trainer and consultant; primary author of the 1996 PMBoK Guide, web site Bill Duncan may be reached by Email at
6. Note that what Bill is saying is that "project Success" is the combination of both "Product Success" and "Project Management Success". However, "Product Success" must also be defined. If it is defined as "Meeting requirements", then well and good. However, if it is defined in terms of "Realized Benefits", these cannot be determined until considerably later, after the project has otherwise been completed, and therefore presumably beyond the project manager's responsibility.
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