Friday, March 28, 2014

Is it Project Success or Project Management Success?

When Sudsy and I began preparing for our implementation case, we were both intrigued by the concept that there is a difference between project success and project management success.  As we read through the assigned Yardley article, we were presented with some ideas neither of us had really thought about -- at least not from that lens.

I did not reference the Yardley article directly here, because it seemed to have some copyright issues.  Thus I searched for a publicly-available document that contained similar ideas to reference.  I found a document written by two professors from universities in Malaysia seeming to address the same topic and coming from a similar perspective.

As Sudsy and I discussed the case, we became aware of how we, ourselves, have fallen into the trap of thinking these two concepts, project success and project management success, are one and the same.  They are frequently used interchangeably and often are perceived as the same idea.  Yet, one is so much larger than the other and success in one does not command success in the other.

While the "project" refers to the cradle to grave (or conception to closedown according to the article) timeline of an endeavor, which realistically can span decades, we unwittingly assume success only happens during the "project management," which occurs in the the three stages (of the six) that related to the planning, production, and handover.  Success can occur in these three stages, and yet the project overall can still fail.

We talked, within the case and then in light of personal/work experience, of examples where superb (and successful) project management took place on a project that ended up being an utter failure, due to factors completely outside of project management.  Then we had other instances where there was sorrowful project management in terms of cost, scope, and time, but when it was finally done, it was a huge success -- fully embraced by the stakeholders and user group.

It struck us how truly disconnected project success could be from the management of that project in that successful project management does not automatically mean the project itself will be a success.  It also amazed us, as we thought through the examples, how deplorable project management could still result in a successful project - it just has to get to the point of completion, depending on how desperately the project is needed.

I had really always thought of these as one and the same, and had used them interchangeably in my everyday work life.  I know better now!

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