So, What's the Benefit? Rethinking Project Success

Mark Mullaly is president of Interthink Consulting Incorporated, an organizational development and change firm specializing in the creation of effective organizational project management solutions. Since 1990, it has worked with companies throughout North America to develop, enhance and implement effective project management tools, processes, structures and capabilities. Mark was most recently co-lead investigator of the Value of Project Management research project sponsored by PMI. You can read more of his writing at

The past couple of months have generated some fascinating discussion in response to my proposed redefinition of project management. Many correspondents have recognized in the definition (or the comments about the definition) elements that have rung true to their experiences. Where there have been disagreements have largely been around the question of whether we really have the authority we require to execute on our roles, or whether this in large part remains with the sponsors.

The greatest source of reaction to this definition has been with respect to the idea of "authority," and in particular who has it, or should have it. There are many who believe that project managers shouldn't--or simply don't--have authority, either because they haven't in the past, or--to paraphrase a participant in a recent workshop of mine--because "we aren't God." Yet if we do not have the authority to execute within the defined bounds of our projects, the question has to be asked: Who does?

This gets to the heart of the issue, and is the crux of the argument that I have been making about why a new definition is needed. If we do not have the authority to be able to execute the project within the approved and defined boundaries of cost, schedule, effort and scope, then we aren't really managing. If someone else--and this is usually the sponsor of the project--retains this authority as their own,…

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