Project Management

We Have a Problem with 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

When, exactly, did “success” become a dirty word?

It’s a very strange thing, but we don’t really like success. We don’t embrace it. We often forget to celebrate it. We very frequently look upon the idea of rejoicing in success as an unproductive and unnecessary frivolity. And declaring success from the rooftops? Why, that’s simply not done.

Now, before you jump in with a “Hang on! I celebrate my successes! Really, I do!” let me just run a few questions by you:

  • Does your organization loudly proclaim when a project gets successfully delivered? Not occasionally, but regularly? As a nauseatingly predictable habit?
  • Do positive contributions get immediately recognized, highlighted and acknowledged? By everyone on your team? Whenever they happen?
  • Do projects that are runaway successes get profiled and examined and studied and shared, so that future projects can learn from them? Formally, consistently and regularly? With companion meetings and presentations and training sessions that are widely attended?

And if you don’t—and I suspect the majority of readers are at this point firmly shaking their heads—why the heck not?

Here’s the thing: Celebrating success isn’t about treating yourself to a latte and an actual coffee break when a project finally gets delivered, before you go back to …

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"In the real world, the right thing never happens in the right place and the right time. It is the job of journalists and historians to make it appear that it has."

- Mark Twain