Aaron J. Shenhar, Professor of Technology Management and James J. Renier Visiting Chair, Center for the Development of Technological Leadership, University of Minnesota, MN and R. Max Wideman

A paper presented to the Southern Alberta Chapter, Project Management Institute, Symposium "Creating Canadian Advantage through Project Management", Calgary, May 1996

Introduction | Success | Scope | Dimensions
Correlation | Classification | Correlating Success | Conclusions

Scope of Recently-Completed Study

Projects are launched for a variety of reasons: to construct buildings or infra-structure, to establish manufacturing processes, to upgrade existing products, or to build defense related systems for example. No matter what the motivation for the project, the question of project success is strongly linked to the organization's effectiveness and its well-being in the long run. Yet, there is still no generally agreed framework with which project success is being measured and assessed. Indeed, the conceptual understanding of the notion of project success is still in its infancy.

In a recent study, Shenhar, Dvir and Levy have developed a universal framework for the assessment of project success.[12]In this view, project success is seen as a strategic management concept where project efforts must be aligned with the strategic long-term goals of the organization. The intent is to establish appropriate expectations of both top management and the project team prior to project initiation. These expectations then provide a baseline for both the project launch decision and the inevitable trade-off decisions required of project management during the project. Surprisingly, a documented baseline such as this is frequently missing from most projects.

From a large and detailed project database, two data sets were collected in two separate phases. In the first phase, sixteen projects were subjected to a multiple case-study qualitative approach focusing on the dynamics within single settings (Eisenhardt[13]; Yin[14]). In the second, detailed questionnaires were sent to project managers and quantitative data collected on 127 projects. The industries concerned included electronics, computers, mechanics, aerospace, chemical and construction. They also involved various technologies such as electronics, computing, materials, mechanical, chemical and bio-chemical, optical and electro-optical, semi-conductors, aeronautical, and construction. Projects ranged in value from $40,000 to $2.5 billion, and in duration from three months to twelve years.

All projects studied were classified by their managers according to their initial level of technological uncertainty (Shenhar[15]). Information was also collected on the project mission and objectives, the motivation for, and the expectations from, each project. The perceptions of success from the perspectives of the contractor, the customer and the user was also obtained and compared to their original expectations.

What is Success?  What is Success?

12. Shenhar, Aaron J., Dov Dvir, and Ofer Levy, Project Success: A Multidimensional, Strategic Concept, Research paper, University of Minnesota, MN, June 1995.
13. Eisenhardt, K.M., Building theories from case study research, Academy of management Review, 14, 1989, pp532-550.
14. Yin, R.K., Case Study Research: Design methods, Beverly Hills, CA: Sage Publishing, 1984.
15. Shenhar, A.J., From low to high-tech project management, R&D Management, 23, 3, 1993, pp199-214.
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