Project Management

The Secret of (Defining) Success

PM Network Staff

Charles Derby and Ofer Zwikael, PhD, PMP, discuss how project managers should—and shouldn’t—measure success on their projects

Charles Derby is a principal customer engineer at GlobalFoundries, a semiconductor foundry in Dresden, Germany.

Ofer Zwikael, PhD, PMP, is a deputy director, Research School of Management, Australia National University (ANU), in Canberra, Australia. He coauthored Project Management for the Creation of Organisational Value.

Ofer Zwikael, PhD, PMP: Traditional project management training focuses on achieving the triple constraint—time, budget and scope. This approach is insufficient to lead to project success, as many projects meet these constraints but do not yield anything the funder considers to be an acceptable return on investment.

For example, the Los Angeles subway system in California, USA, was ahead of schedule and on budget, and met all its operational, safety and service goals. Yet the project, at one point, was declared a failure because residents refused to leave their cars at home and use the subway for their transportation needs.

Charles Derby: There is always the classic division of “doing things right” and “doing the right things.” The true success of a project depends on whether the main objectives are met, which can only occur if the right objectives and deliverables …

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"The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man."

- George Bernard Shaw