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

Editor's Note:

The following Words of Wisdom from various authors are intended to capture and summarize the most valuable ideas expressed in the conversation about defining project success. It is a consolidated summary of a long, but important, discussion on LinkedIn between February 17 and May 9, 2014. It is important because it represents the collective views of some of the most influential professionals in the field of project management. Of course, the "success" of a project, means different things to different people, but what does it mean for the project manager? Is there any consistent position that a project manager can firmly embrace? Once again, it all depends ...

To keep the summary manageable, we have chosen to select just 10 of the 63 participants who contributed during the period, but who also subscribed a total of more than 300 words. The following pages provide an interesting summary from the selected respondents. Their contributions have been edited to facilitate easier web site reading. These people are practicing experts and likely represent a condensed view of the millions of diverse responses already available on the Internet.

Except for the initiator of the conversation that follows, contributors appear in the order of their first participation in the discussion. In consolidating the contributions of the participants to the discussion, the conversational thread may not always be clear, but we have used the "@"[1] sign as a means of connection to help with continuity. We believe that this situation is a small tradeoff for the benefit of consolidating the underlying viewpoints.

We hope that you will find this condensed summary useful as we feel that it represents real-world experience rather than "standard" or academic advocacy.

Introduction by Matthew Weaver, PMP, CSM, ITIL[2]

Matthew started off the LinkedIn conversation with the question:

"How do you define project success?"

Matthew then followed his own question with this observation: While I realize this is a recurring topic,[3] I note this morning as I work through the PMBOK[4] 5th edition, that they have added a new section "Project Success" (page 35) that clarifies rather succinctly the definition of project success and the project manager's role in it:

"Success of the project should be measured in terms of completing the project within the constraints of scope, time, cost, quality, resources, and risks as approved between the project managers [sic] and senior management."

Later, the PMBOK authors write:

"Project success should be referred to the last baselines approved by the authorized stakeholders."

(So much for the Standish reports that instead like to harp on initial scope, schedule, and cost baselines!)

"The project manager is responsible and accountable for setting realistic and achievable boundaries for the project and to accomplish the project within the approved baselines."

Nowhere is the project manager responsible for whether the project is a good idea or not, wanted or not, etc. In fact, it is the responsibility of the project's sponsor to promote the project, not the project manager. (See PMBOK page 32.)

How does this fit with, or diverge, from your view of project success from the project manager's perspective?


1. On LinkedIn, the "@" sign is used to identify the name of a person to whom a response is being made.
2. For more information about Matthew Weaver and his work, visit his web site at You can reach him by Email at, or call toll free (855) 871-9246 (USA)
3. In fact if you do a Google search for "Project Success" you are likely to get over five million responses and if you search with "Defining Project Success" you could get around eleven million responses. These figures suggest that either the subject has been worn to death or there is a lot of room for differences of opinion and hence that the answer to the question is far from precise.
4. PMBOK® stands for the Project Management Institute's A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) Now in its 5th edition, Pennsylvania, 2013.
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