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GEM: The Most Crucial Factors for Project Success

Three crucial factors for project success

Successful projects are built upon many factors. Among them, three are most crucial. They are like the pillars of a solid foundation upon which building successful projects becomes possible. Missing these three vital factors, project success would be any project manager’s pie in the sky.

GEM is the foundation built by the three most vital success factors

Having all success factors working in harmony for any project is not practical, if not impossible, and project managers typically have to cope with what they don’t have when striving for successes. To conquer project perils like technical illiteracy, unsuspected risks, scope creeps, ineffective tools, contentious stakeholder collaborations, over budget, under resource or bloated schedules, project managers must have three most crucial success factors on their side. Missing any one of these three will very likely cause the projects to fail. These three vital factors are the pillars to hold up the foundations upon which building successful projects becomes possible. This foundation is named GEM, which is the acronym of the first letters of the three pillars, which are:

  • Global corporate culture of the company: Global corporate culture is a corporate culture when all units and pieces of the corporation embrace the same set of values, and their employees’ behaviors manifest their alignment and support of these values. Global corporate cultures embracing proper project management methodology is the first most essential success factor that every project manager needs. Missing this factor, project managers will have to fight uphill battles on almost anything needed to steer and manage the projects to stay on their right courses. When a business does not possess a good and disciplined project management culture, team members could feel that project management tasks hinder rather than facilitate their work, and would not be fully cooperative with the project managers. In the absence of this culture, there will not be standard processes that everyone adheres to, and sound methods and proven practices in the project management profession will not be leveraged to handle scope creeps, risk management, resource rebalancing, or any other tasks or issues. Project success without a global corporate culture favoring proper project management procedures, if at all possible, would be by chance, not by design, hard work, or sound project management operations.
  • Empowerment of the project manager: Empowerment is the second-most essential success factor that every project manager needs. Project managers absolutely need to be empowered to handle not only the routine project management activities effectively, but also the menaces like scope creeps, uncooperative and noncommittal stakeholders, over budget, under resource, inflated schedule, etc. Project managers have to be truly empowered to lead and to appropriate actions on scope, schedule, budget and resource matters. Project managers define RACI charts to clarify stakeholder ownerships of project tasks. They need to be empowered to hold the stakeholders committed to their tasks. Underpowered project managers could not reject scope changes during midstream, or adjust budgets, schedules and resources to realign with the changed project scopes. Inabilities caused by under-empowerment impair the project managers’ prospects to lead the projects to success.
  • Management sponsorship, especially executive sponsorship: Management sponsorship is the third-most essential success factor that every project manager needs. This vital factor is needed to foster and strengthen a global corporate project management culture and to make empowerment of the project managers a natural and sustainable delegation. Management, particularly executives, must believe in and commit to proper project management by walking the talks. Without management sponsorship, the empowerment given to the project managers are conditional, restrictive and temporary at best. Without management sponsorship, businesses’ global project management cultures will crumble. Without management sponsorship, project managers will be continually fighting project perils rather than leading project successes.

Management sponsorship is GEM’s most vital pillar

The three pillars of GEM form the foundation of project successes, and the third pillar is the most vital of them all. Weak global corporate culture in favor of proper project management can be nurtured and strengthened, and underpowered project managers can be further empowered as long as the management of a corporation is fully committed to sponsor the projects. On the other hand, projects lacking management sponsorship could perish because global corporate culture favoring proper project management could crumble, power of the project managers could be tapered off, and project menaces could creep in to trigger project hazards when there is not a solid GEM foundation to base on.

Imagine a young corporation formed by co-founders who embrace proper project management methodology. At the beginning, not all employees endorse this project management value, but the top executives’ sponsorship leads to immediate empowerment of the project managers. Additionally, these top executives make embracing proper project management procedures a corporate mission. These two motions send a strong message to the entire corporation that disciplined project management practice is needed for project success and that everyone must endorse this value. Given time, employees who refuse to assimilate to this culture will be forced out voluntarily or involuntarily, the corporate project management culture will be nurtured to bloom and project managers will be truly empowered to lead.


There are many factors for project success. Among them global corporate culture that favors project management methodology, empowered project managers who could lead effectively and management sponsorship that stands behind the project managers form the three pillars of the GEM foundation upon which other success factors act as building blocks to create project successes. Furthermore, among the three pillars of the GEM foundation, management sponsorship is the most pivotal without which the other two pillars could disintegrate and project success will remain a pipe dream. Therefore, when the GEM foundation is not strong, building management sponsorship above all else is the best and most essential starting point to strengthen the GEM foundation for project successes. 

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