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Essential Elements for Any Successful Project

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This chapter is from the book

In this chapter

  • Learn what comprises a "successful" project

  • Understand the common characteristics of "troubled" projects

  • Review the common characteristics of successful projects

  • Learn which tools are indispensable to most project managers

In this chapter, we want to continue the accelerated learning approach we started in the previous chapter. Anytime that you are learning a new field, especially one that is as broad as project management, one of the most effective ways to reduce your learning curve and focus your mental energies is to understand what "successful" people do in the field, and, equally important, understand what "not to do."

With this philosophy in mind, we will take a step up in this chapter and look at "projects" as a whole and not just the project manager position. We will review the leading causes of "troubled" projects, and we'll discuss the common principles, techniques, and tools underlying most successful projects. With this foundation in place, you will better understand the purpose and the value of the fundamentals covered in the rest of this book, and as a result, be much better positioned for success on your initial project management assignment.

What Exactly Is a "Successful" Project?

You would think it would be relatively straightforward to describe the attributes of a successful project. Well, let’s just say this endeavor has kept more than a few "spin doctors," "politicians," and "history revisionists" employed throughout organizations across our great land. Why is this the case? There are several reasons for this.

  • There is a lack of universal harmony of what comprises project success metrics. It seems that every project management educational source and organizational process maturity standard has a slightly different definition of project success.

  • For many projects, the acceptance and success criteria are never established or agreed to by all key stakeholders.

  • In many cases, an organization may define a project as successful even when some of the textbook criteria for project success (such as schedule, cost, client expectations) are not completely met.

  • In other cases, a "cancelled" project may be a "successful" project if there was a plan for one or more "go/no-go" decision points.

From a utopian, academic standpoint, the "ultimate" successful project would be defined as a project that:

  • Delivered as promised—Project produced all the stated deliverables.

  • Completed on-time—Project completed within the approved schedule.

  • Completed within budget—Project completed under the approved budget.

  • Delivered quality—Project deliverables met all functional, performance, and quality specifications.

  • Achieved original purpose—The project achieved its original goals, objectives, and purpose.

  • Met all stakeholder expectations—The complete expectations of each key stakeholder were met, including all client acceptance criteria, and each key stakeholder accepts the project results without reservation.

  • Maintains "win-win" relationships—The needs of the project are met with a "people focus" and do not require sacrificing the needs of individual team members or vendors. Participants on successful projects should be enthusiastic when the project is complete and eager to repeat a similar experience.

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