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

What is Success?

As noted in the Introduction, success is more than just "on time, on budget and conformance to requirements". Success means (gaining) advantage, superiority, victory, accomplishment, achievement, added value. But all of these are perceptions, so how can they be related to project work?.

Over the years, this intriguing question has been studied by a number of project management authors such as Ashley, Lurie, and Jaselskis[1]; Baker, Murphy and Fisher[2]; De Wit[3]; Dvir and Shenhar[4]; Hayfield[5]; Morris and Hough[6]; Pinto and Slevin[7]; and others.

For example, in 1988 Pinto and Slevin concluded from their research work that "Project success is a complex and often illusory construct, but nonetheless it is of crucial importance to effective project implementation." and "Project success is suggested to have two major components: issues dealing with the project itself and issues dealing with the client." In addition, Pinto and Slevin stressed "... the necessity of developing an adequate program in terms of knowing when to determine project success."[8]

The Project Management Institute attempted to capture this concept in 1987 when it defined project management as the art of directing resources to meet objectives, but included the goal of "participant satisfaction".[9] In PMI's latest version of A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (Exposure Draft - 1994) the term "participant" has been broadened by the use of the word "stakeholder".[10] In the Draft, "stakeholder" has been given a very broad definition, namely: "Individuals and organizations who are involved in or may be affected by project activities." Presumably, that includes not just the project activities but the facility or product resulting from those activities.

Indeed, as long ago as 1980, Burnett and Youker, in analyzing the project environment, identified a process called "stakeholder mapping". That is, mapping out which people or groups have a stake in the project's success or failure.[11] These people ranged from the project's owners and sponsors to those who might be marginally (yet critically) affected by the project.

If a project is to be perceived as successful, then its stakeholders must be satisfied. Since this encompasses a wide range of people, they may not all be equally satisfied but at least they should be satisfied in some degree, or in the majority. For public or competitive projects, this is a major consideration. It is typically the driving force behind a strenuous public relations effort and an imaginative public launch and promotion of the facility or product upon project completion.

Introduction  Introduction

1. Ashley, D.B., C.S. Lurie & E.J. Jaselskis, Determinants of Construction Project Success, Project Management Journal XVIII, 2, 1987, pp69-79.
2. Baker, B.N., D.C. Murphy & D. Fisher, Factors Affecting Project Success, Project Management Handbook (ed D.I. Cleland & W.R. King, Van Nostrand Reinhold, NY, 1983, pp669-685.
3. de Wit, A., Measuring Project Success: An Illusion, Proceedings, Project Management Institute, 1986, pp13-21.
4. Dvir, D. & L. Dyer, Measuring the success of technology-based strategic business units, Engineering Management Journal, 4, 4, 1992, pp33-38.
5. Hayfield, F., Project success and failures, Proceedings of the 8th World Congress on Project management, Internet, Rotterdam, 1985.
6. Morris, P.W.G., & G.H. Hough, The preconditions of success and failure in major projects, Technical Paper #3, Major Projects Association, Templeton College, Oxford, 1986.
7. Pinto, J.K. & D.P. Slevin, Project Success: Definitions and Measurement Techniques, Project Management Journal #19, Project Management Institite, 1988, pp67-75.
8. Pinto, Jeffrey K., and Dennis P. Slevin, Project Success: Definitions and Measurement Techniques, Project Management Journal, vol xix, No. 1, Project Management Institute, Upper Darby, PA, 1988, pp70-71.
9. Wideman, R. Max, Project Management Body of Knowledge, Project Management Institute, Upper Darby, PA, 1987, Glossary of Terms, p22.
10. PMI Standards Committee, A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (Exposure Draft), Project Management Institute, Upper Darby, PA, 1994, p3.
11. Burnett, Nicholas R., and Robert Youker, Analyzing the Project Environment, World Bank, Washington, DC, 1980, EDI Course Notes CN-848, p4.
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