Defining Failure

Andy Jordan is President of Roffensian Consulting Inc., an Ontario, Canada-based management consulting firm with a comprehensive project management practice. Andy always appreciates feedback and discussion on the issues raised in his articles and can be reached at Andy's new book Risk Management for Project Driven Organizations is now available.

When I first started managing projects, life was relatively straightforward. I was taught that success at project management was simply a case of delivering all of the features that were in scope, by the date that they were due and for the cost that was approved (measured in terms of effort or money). That seemed like a fairly easy concept to grasp, and that’s how I approached the job. That’s also how many PMs still approach the job, but that’s not acceptable anymore. The discipline of project management has evolved and now requires us to have a much more complete view of how our projects impact organizations--success is a lot more than on scope, time and budget.

Additional considerations
The PMI now recognizes six constraints rather than the traditional triple constraint model, with cost being split between effort and money, and risk and quality being added to the mix. Let’s deal with the cost side of things first. In some cases, PMs don’t have to worry about dollar costs; if the project is internal, then they only need to track and manage the people that are assigned to the project and the work that they perform--the effort cost. This is an organizational decision, and I don’t fault PMs for ignoring financial considerations if that is what the project execution methodology requires.

However, that’s not a realistic view--…

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"Impartial observers from other planets would consider ours an utterly bizarre enclave if it were populated by birds, defined as flying animals, that nevertheless rarely or never actually flew. They would also be perplexed if they encountered in our seas, lakes, rivers and ponds, creatures defined as swimmers that never did any swimming. But they would be even more surprised to encounter a species defined as a thinking animal if, in fact, the creature very rarely indulged in actual thinking."

- Steve Allen

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