Project Management Simply Explained - A Logical Framework to Help Your Understanding


Introduction | PMBoK | Sequence | LifeCycle | Hierarchy
 | Tetrad Trade-off | Success

Targeting Success

So far in these pages we have highlighted four core constraining functions and four facilitating functions. But in addition to these eight functional components of project management there is another element, arguably the most important of all and that is the matter of measuring success. Why?

Interest in project management learning stems from a desire to manage projects better, to end up with a project which is more successful. But when is a project successful? Some things can be measured but most are a matter of opinion and that depends on the personal perspective of the viewer. For a favorable opinion to be expressed by those associated with a project and its product, they must first be reasonably satisfied with it. Hence, a successful project is one which has achieved stakeholder satisfaction.

Yes, I know that we have a problem with the word "stakeholder". A stakeholder may be the person who has financed or sponsored the project, or the people who worked on it, or those who will benefit from the product — think of those last as the "customers". Or they may simply be people who are impacted, perhaps adversely, by the project — think of those as the project's constituents. Of course, the cynic might argue that the really successful project is one in which all those involved are about equally dissatisfied!

The biggest problem with measuring success is the common observation that its perception not only varies with who does the perceiving but the point in time at which it is being evaluated. For example, the project team's perceptions of success is always going to be subjected to a certain amount of bias (after all, their jobs may be on the line!)[8] whereas at a later date they may be free to view the project with greater objectivity. Similarly, activists who violently object at the time for political purposes turn their attention to other opportunities, and constituents simply find that perhaps it is not so bad after all.

In the literature, there are many examples of projects which had monstrous budget and schedule overruns, yet were subsequently considered great commercial successes. Still others meeting the simple cost, schedule and performance criteria proved to be glorious "white elephants". Clearly the old view that project success is comprised of these three elements is no longer an adequate. barometer of true project success. Rather, the differences are more likely to be found in changes in the external environmental conditions, such as changes in the market or in stakeholders and constituents needs and attitudes.

In other words, the products of a project may be only a partial satisfaction of the sponsor's real needs, because they are only part of a larger picture and this picture typically becomes better understood as the project progresses. Figure 6 suggests a view which tries to combine all of these aspects. It suggests internal performance must be balance with external purpose for both project and product to be successful.

Figure 6: So there
Figure 6: Combination of Aspects

The moral is: Doing the wrong thing right is never a success, but doing the right thing even half right could still be a winner

© 1991, 2001

Tetrad Trade-off  Tetrad Trade-off

8. J. Pinto, Summary provided in letter dated June 5, 1989

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