How to define project success?

The obvious answer is by measuring project success (i.e. scope, time, budget). Another answer could by measuring meeting projects objectives. I think the answer is not always straight forward. Lets have a look n some hypothetical examples.

Lets say you have a project with the objective to build a product. Your project is finished behind schedule and over budget. But the project was so good that exceeded the expectation so overall financially the profit was much higher than anticipated.

Your project is constantly ahead of schedule and under budget. But to achieve this status you pushed your team so hard so by the end of the project the best experts in your team are either burned out or had resigned.

You started with an unexperienced team, and you had bad estimates. You found the most efficient way to solve the problems, you worked on building he knowledge in the team and you always had a very good status reporting. You anticipated the delays and clearly communicated it to your stakeholders. But still, at the end the project was late.

My point is: you rarely are in the ideal situation and an absolute answer cannot be found. It always depends on the circumstances. Or, are this just excuses? Is the project success restricted to the triple constrain (scope, time, budget)?


Why I wanted to become project manager

In one of the companies I previously worked, at some point, I was transferring some of my  Project Management responsibilities to a colleague who had no previous PM experience(but great potential). At some point she asked a really good question. She asked why I wanted to become a PM and what did I liked about it. The question is still present in my mind today and I think every Project Manager should ask herself/himself this question from time to time. Actually, regardless of your profession, I think it’s a good idea to regularly ask yourself what do you like your job and why did you wanted it in the first place. Is your current situation as you expected when you first started? Would you choose the same path again?

I wanted try this profession from several reasons:

  • I am the kind of person that likes to have the global picture instead on focusing on details
  • I wanted to have more independence in my job
  • I like to motivate people, to make them work as a team and to arouse enthusiasm
  • I thought this is the right next step for my career

At that point I had the impression that this job will bring all this. Now I see that not only the profession is important but also how the organization see it. There are organization that value this profession more than others, where a project manager can fulfill his role as in the manuals and others where there are so many restrictions that makes you wander if you are truly a project manager.

Considering all my expectations, experiences and challenges I had so far in this job, giving the opportunity to choose again, I would definitely make the same choice.


Can a project manager be successful in any field?

There is a never ending debate on this topic. My personal opinion is yes. Of course there are certain conditions. First of all, the project manager needs to be willing to learn the basics of the new industry and the common language. Then the organization and the project need to support that (if your organization requires you to be an expert in that field you will probably fail on short term). Last but not least you need to have the domain experts onboard and you need to be able to trust them. And they need to be aware that you are not a domain expert but a project management expert.


Good Project Manager vs good team

I had a debate with a colleague once on what is more valueble for a project: to have a good and experienced team or to have a good and experienced project manager. It is clear having both is the ideal situation, but this is not always the case.  If you would have to choose between having an experienced team with a not so experienced project manager versus having an outstanding PM with an average team what would you choose? Each alternative would have it’s benfits from organizational groth point of view, bad PM with bad team will be clearly a strugle. But from project point of view what can be best?

In my view, a bad project manager can lead even a good team on the wrong path. This clearly depends on the organisation type, on how much power the project manager has and the level of management control in the organisation. But this is a real posibility.

On the other side, a good project manager will be able to identify the strenghts and weaknesses of his team and make a strategy in such a way that the potential is maximized. The project manager can develop plans to increase the knowledge of the team and  even bring external experts.

So giving the two alternatives, I would choose the first. What would you choose?