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!) 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
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: 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
FICE, FEIC, FCSCE, FPMI
© 1991, 2001
8. J. Pinto, Summary provided in
letter dated June 5, 1989