Whose success is it?

In my “enemies within” blog, we looked at how senior management often gets the project performance they deserve. In that blog I  explored the important role of the programme and project sponsor in making sure that an organisation’s programmes and projects succeed. But what does “success” mean? Success is often interpreted through the differing eyes and motivation of stakeholders.

Successful project management ensures the delivery of a specified scope, on time and to budget (what PMI refers to as the triple constraint). It is related to how efficiently a project is managed. This should be assessed during the project closure review, documented in a project closure report and measured by timeliness of delivery milestones, adherence to budgets and quality. This is commonly associated with the role of the project manager.

A successful project delivers the outcomes and realises the business benefits it was set up to achieve as stated in a business case. It is related to the effectiveness of the project in meeting the objectives set. The post implementation review (post-project review) assesses this. Measures of success here must be indicative of the business objectives being achieved. This review therefore has to happen some time after the output of the project has been put into use and outcomes are assessable. It is more associated with the role of the sponsoring body and the project sponsor.

A successful organisation drives towards its strategic objectives while fulfilling expectations of shareholders, managers, employees and other stakeholders. Measures for this are at a corporate level and should be financial and non-financial, such as a balanced score card. This is associated with the role of the chief executive and board.

A project which has been successfully ‘project managed’, however, might actually deliver little of value to the organisation. Further, a ‘successful project’ might not further the strategic objectives of the organisation, as its objectives could be out of alignment to that of the organisation. A failing company can be full of ‘successful project management’ and ‘successful projects’ all driving in different directions.

Further reading: you will find my book, The Project Workout (5ed), advocates this approach, which I call business-driven or benefits-led project management. It is also the approach taken in ISO 21502:2020, BS6079:2019, PRINCE2:2017 and the UK government’s GovS 002 Project delivery.

 

Whatever you do must help you move towards your strategic objective. Otherwise there's no point.

Whatever you do must help you move towards your strategic objective. Otherwise there’s no point.