Project Success: It’s more than just delivering project results
This is not new to experienced project managers: project success is more than just the delivery of the project results. There are a number of factors that need to be taken into consideration:
- time: was the project delivered on time, i.e., as planned?
- budget: was the project budget sufficient or did the project run out of money?
- project objectives met: of course, we have to look at project objectives and if they were met. This assumes that there were project objectives in the first place. The question is whether or not these objectives were SMART, that is, specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-boxed. If a project has SMART project objectives chances for mutual agreement and support are much greater compared to vague objectives statements.
Quite a few projects I reviewed in the past had project objectives which fell way short of this key requirement. Fact is, if you start a project without clear objectives you have a lot of room for interpretation. Makes you wonder if some people are doing this on purpose.
- project vision: Yes, vision. The project vision sets the overall direction of the project. For example, a project objective may be to integrate a certain CRM software application within a given time frame. The project vision on the other hand is to improve overall customer service. The software is a means to achieve this vision.
- project life: this is the path between vision and results. It answers the question how to get from your vision to project results. It includes the following aspects:
1. collaboration / teamwork: a project is not about the individual project manager; it is about the team who is doing the work. Collaboration goes beyond the core project team and extends to the key stakeholders of a project. A project manager who claims project success for him- or herself lacks the understanding of the heart and soul of a project: the team.
2. performance on the individual and team level
3. learning & innovation & flexibility to adjust to a changing environment and make the most out of it
I am claiming that if your project has or had significant deficits in any of these three areas your project is either not aligned for project success or has already failed
Now, if you disagree with these points and believe that project results are THE most important aspect, i.e., more important than the path to delivery, you may ask yourself if you mistake a project with a product.
For example, all renown professional project management journals consider the German project “Toll Collect” as one of the best examples for project failure. The end product on the other side is working today and the public tends to forget the chaotic project management.
There is nothing wrong with a good product. Take the Opera House in Sydney, claimed as the 8th Wonder of the World. But do you know that the project of building the opera house was a complete mess?! It was over budget, way overdue, involved parties argued for years, and the list goes on.
What do you care for more? A project or a product. Make up your mind. If you choose “product”, think twice before you take on the next assignment of project manager unless you understand what project success entails. Just because you are a product expert doesn’t automatically make you a good project manager.