What is the measure of a successful project?

Historically speaking, project managers have always seen the measure of a project’s success related to what you might have come to know as the “iron triangle” or quadruple constraints. A perspective of success on how well your project did by how you delivered on scope, within budget or timeline boundaries and within the proper level of quality. In the last two to three editions of the PMBOK Guide, PMI has refrained from using those terms in favor of proposing that we needed to balance project objectives with the constraints of that project in order to proclaim success and gain stakeholder satisfaction. What does that mean for us and our ability to set an appropriate measure of project success?

Remember the last time you closed a project and generated your closure report? What did success look like? For that matter, look at a recent project charter and describe how you defined your project on the success scale. Chances are it had to do with being on time, on budget and providing some level of stakeholder satisfaction. 

What if your project does not meet one or several of those markers? Then what? Is a project considered a failure if it doesn’t fit within that mold?

Well, that is probably not the case or a reflection of your day to day reality. In the past, I have had some projects that did not meet the scope, time, or budget levels, but that they were still considered successful. To put it lightly: We had pulled through and delivered something against all the odds. There are, in fact, a lot more factors to consider when aligning your projects to a success scale. Let’s discuss four areas to consider the next time you are trying to explain to your sponsor that success is not simply in the eye of the beholder.

Four factors that help measure the success of a project

 1. The people factor

This is the first on my list as it is a key and important factor. This factor influences and has an impact on all the others that I am about to mention. Several projects out there end up over their budget, way past their timeline and yet they are deemed successful if the project manager was able to keep the team together and the stakeholders engaged to the end. A lot of organizations will put aside variances in budget or schedule if the project is achieved keeping all its “people” working towards the same goal. An indication of this is often in the fact that we are bringing about change that is not only needed but accepted into the organization.

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