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Project Management for Beginners and Experts

Episode 194: Defining and Measuring Project Success (Premium)

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Episode 194: Defining and Measuring Project Success (Premium)Bill Duncan (http://www.pmpartners.com) is back in this episode.

When I asked him what topic he would like to focus on for our second interview, he immediately pointed me to his article Defining and Measuring Project Success (http://www.pmpartners.com/resources/defmeas_success.html). In this article and in the interview you’ll hear in just a minute, Duncan gives us his outstanding view of what success means, what is wrong with the way that we define success on projects today and what success dimensions and approaches he suggests that we start applying to our project today in order to improve measuring success. We also look at what you can do today on your ongoing projects to check if you measure success properly and what you can do in order to the measurement criteria in an ongoing project.

Below are the first few pages of the transcript. The complete transcript is available to Premium subscribers only.

Podcast Introduction

Cornelius Fichtner: Hello and welcome to Episode #194. This is The Project Management Podcast™ at www.pm-podcast.com and I am Cornelius Fichtner.  Nice to have you with us.

This is a premium episode reserved to our premium members which means that because you are listening to it, you are a premium member and you are supporting us by paying a small subscription fee. Thank you very much for helping us cover our various production costs.

Bill Duncan from www.pmpartners.com is back in this episode.

When I asked him what topic he would like to focus on in this second interview, he immediately pointed me to his article “Defining and Measuring Project Success”.

In this article and of course in the interview that you’ll hear in just a moment, Duncan gives us his outstanding view of what success means, what is wrong with the way that we define success on projects today and what success dimensions and approaches he suggests that we start applying to our projects today in order to improve measuring success.

We also look at what you can do today on your ongoing projects to check if you measure success properly and what you can do in order to improve the measurement criteria on your ongoing project.

And now as you have successfully reached the end of the introduction, enjoy the interview.

Podcast Interview

Female voice: The Project Management Podcast’s feature Interview: Today with William Duncan, principal of Project Management Partners.

Cornelius Fichtner: Hello Duncan! Welcome back to The Project Management Podcast™.

William Duncan: Hello, Cornelius. It’s a pleasure to be back.

Cornelius Fichtner: So we want to talk about project success, defining and measuring it. How do you define success in general?

William Duncan: Well, success is one of those words that have lots of definitions. One of the things I like to joke about is there is in fact a city in Arkansas I believe called Success. So that’s one definition but probably not one that we’re going to use in projects.

If we look at the dictionary definition: Success is the accomplishment of an aim or purpose. And I think that’s what we’re looking at in the project management environment as well.

The issue I think with projects is that we really have two separate aims and those two separate aims need to be understood as separate and need to be defined and measured separately.

Cornelius Fichtner: Okay. What are those aims?

William Duncan: Alright! I use the term “product success” and “project management success”.

Cornelius Fichtner: I see.

William Duncan: So let’s start with the easy one which is project management success. That’s the one that most people, certainly most of your listeners, most project managers are probably most familiar with. And that’s the old triple constraint or iron triangle which said: Did we deliver this project, not necessarily on time but at least within an acceptable time frame? Did we deliver it for an acceptable cost; and did we deliver what the customer had asked for. So did we satisfy the specifications that were given to us or developed by us as part of the project?

I typically add a fourth dimension to that and that’s stakeholder satisfaction. Stakeholder satisfaction basically says: Would you do this again with the same group of people?

I had a client once several years ago when I asked them to define success who told me this is as close to an exact quote as I can remember said: “In this organization in this department at this point in time, a successful project is any project in which any two team members are still on speaking terms.”

Cornelius Fichtner: Oh, that’s funny.

William Duncan: Yeah! I wish I can make some of this stuff up. So I like to include that stakeholder satisfaction as a fourth dimension, as a balance on the other three in terms of measurement.

If you are meeting your custom schedule and scope objectives by abusing the team or by ignoring the requests for change that are emanating from your sponsor or your user group then I would argue that you are not being successful as a project manager. So including that stakeholder satisfaction piece is important I think to the definition of project management success.

Cornelius Fichtner: Okay. I’d like to take a quick detour here. I promise to everyone we will come back to these various dimensions. Because there is one project that you mentioned in an article which embodies both success and failure at the same time. It’s the Sydney Opera House. Why that particular project?

William Duncan: Okay, well a couple of reasons. I fell in love with the Sydney Opera House when I first saw a photo of it many years ago. I’ve been to Sydney several times and in my iPhoto files, I probably have 300 or 400 photos of the opera house from every angle. It’s just a spectacular civic symbol. It’s on a point right next to downtown Sydney. It’s got this beautiful bridge behind it. If you look at it from the bridge side, it has a fabulous park on the other side of it with green and flowers and all that sort of stuff.

So as a product, it’s a wonderful success. If you watched the Olympics in Sydney a few years ago, every time they broke away from the event, what do they show you? They showed you a picture of the Sydney Opera House. I mean it’s just a truly spectacular piece of architecture.

However, it was 1,400% over-budget. Depending upon how you count, the original budget for the project was 7 million Australian dollars. The actual delivered cost for the project again depending upon who you believe and how you count and whether or not you adjust for inflation, it’s somewhere between 111 and 114 million Australian dollars.

The projected schedule was 3 years. It took nearly 10. The problems of the opera house brought down the government of New South Wales; the Australian State, was it being built and whose government have authorized it. So if you look at the project management process, how can you conceivably call something like that a success? But the product itself, fabulous!

Cornelius Fichtner: Right, and you’ve nicely managed to integrate those two dimensions again --- the product success and the project management success. So if those are our two dimensions that we are supposed to be measuring, what are we generally doing wrong today on our projects in regards to measuring success?

 

Above are the first few pages of the transcript. The complete transcript is available to Premium subscribers only. Please subscribe to our Premium Podcast to receive a PDF transcript.

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