Project Success Factors

Since a project manager’s career hangs on the outcome of their projects, many project managers subscribe to the philosophy that project success is easy to achieve through effective planning, controlling, and risk management. The general consensus is that project success equals project manager success. This of course is an over simplification. Based on research by the Project Management Institute (PMI), many factors contribute to project success or failure, resulting in varied degrees of success influenced by the following:

  • Project Manager
  • Team Members
  • Project Characteristics
  • Organization
  • External Environment

During the 1960’s, project managers based success on the performance of the end product. This definition of success expanded during the 1970’s to include the current paradigm, referred to as the triple constraint—that is, completing the project on time, within budget, and with an acceptable level of quality. This definition of project success was further refined during the 1980’s to include customer acceptance. Finally, during the 1990’s the definition of project success expanded yet again to stipulate that a project cannot disturb an organizations workflow or change the corporate culture.


What World Class Project Managers Know and Do

All great project managers master the basics and have the discipline to follow through. They have personalities that are predisposed to the role. The top two percent of project managers—that is, world-class project managers know how to balance hard and soft skills, and know and do the right things that other project managers do not. Major differences exist between what world-class project managers know and do, versus other project managers. A world-class project manager acts with more authority, plans more, communicates more, and performs better in the following eight areas than other project managers do:

  • Attitude and belief
  • Communication
  • Alignment
  • Approach and organization
  • Focus and prioritization
  • Issue management
  • Relationships and conflict
  • Leadership

World-class project managers believe they have enough authority to manage the project, so they take action and ask for forgiveness later. Project managers who take action and assume project management authority are more effective at executing project plans. World-class project managers practice basic project management like other project managers, but practice the basics with a higher degree of effectiveness—for example, they:

  • Dedicate double the amount of project time to planning, which averages to 21 percent of project labor hours
  • Communicate more effectively, specifically paying the most attention to stakeholders
  • Ask others for their opinions about the project
  • Respond with information tailored to their stakeholders’ interests
  • Help others and treat people as human beings

Knowing what to do isn’t enough. World-class project managers know what to do, and have the competencies to do it. They excel in:

  • Communication
  • Leadership
  • Management
  • Cognitive ability
  • Effectiveness
  • Professionalism

World-class project managers are more competent with soft skills—they:

  • Listen actively and respond to stakeholders
  • Build and maintain effective relationships
  • Motivate and mentor
  • Use influence
  • Build and maintain the project team
  • Are assertive when necessary
  • Operate with integrity


Tell me your thoughts in the comments and let’s open a dialog. I would be excited to hear other opinions on this topic.

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Larry Lucero

Larry Lucero

Contributing Author

Larry Lucero is a Technical Communications Specialist who works with engineers and other subject matter experts to explain highly specialized technical information to a diverse audience. In addition to his extensive writing and editing experience, Larry is a highly skilled Project Manager with over 20 years experience managing and delivering the toughest projects on time, with quality, and on budget.

After spending nearly several decades working in high-tech multi-million dollar corporations, Larry knows how to assimilate complex information quickly, and is very comfortable working with people from diverse professional and cultural backgrounds. He is also detail oriented, curious, persistent in solving problems, self-motivated, and able to understand complex material and explain any subject clearly.

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