What Defines Success?

Andy Jordan is President of Roffensian Consulting S.A., a Roatan, Honduras-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.jordan@roffensian.com. Andy's new book Risk Management for Project Driven Organizations is now available.

Project management has never been the kind of discipline that had a simple-to-define, simple-to-achieve definition of success. The success of the project manager has to be linked to the success of the project, but that can’t be a direct and inflexible tie.

Here’s what I mean: If a project manager oversees a succession of projects that all fail, then there has to be some question about whether that PM is doing a good job. On the other hand, if we take a single failed project in isolation, we cannot assume the project manager failed because the project failed. We have all led initiatives that failed through no fault of our own—and where it could easily be argued the outcome would have been far worse if we hadn’t been involved.

There is also the issue of defining what constitutes success or failure. Ultimately, a project has to achieve the goals for which it was approved—delivering business benefits through the completion of features and functionality within a set timeframe and for an established budget. However, that’s not a black-and-white calculation of success or failure; a project that misses the deadline by a day and a project that misses the deadline by a month are not automatically the same.

Add into that the intangible results that come from a project—the growth of individual team members and the team itself to be better …

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