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Project Success Factors and Value Contracts

At some point in our careers we have innocently accepted a project with a poor or absent description of the project manager’s role and accountabilities. Usually this information is missing because the Project Management Office (PMO) executive failed to understand the full scope of the project and/or the project sponsor’s perceptions regarding the project manager’s role. The result involves the project manager wasting upfront critical project time defining their role and then selling their inclusion to the project sponsor and key stakeholders. This time is usually not replaced and puts an avoidable strain on the project.

The project charter briefly outlines the project manager’s role. Complementing and strengthening the project charter are two separate and distinct tools I use to clarify the project manager’s role, avoid misalignment and produce a harmonious project delivery experience.

The “Project Success Factors” and “Value Contracts” are tools that explain the specific deliverables, behaviors and actions that are expected from the project manager. Together they form an agreement that stipulates if such deliverables, behaviors and actions are produced by the project manager during the engagement the project sponsor and key stakeholders will irrevocably pronounce that the project was successful and that the project manager’s role in the initiative provided “value”. Think of these tools as assurance that the results of the project manager’s efforts will be truly recognized at the end of the project.

Project Success Factors

A project usually includes changes to operational logistics that may be perceived as a loss of control by some stakeholders. The result is personal agendas and stereotypes, organizational and interdepartmental politics, and conflicting cultures that mold misguided enterprise perceptions of the project scope. Naturally, a description of the in-scope work is included in the scope statement and charter. However, this description alone does not guarantee that, at the conclusion of the project, all stakeholders will agree that the project was successful. Most of the time, stakeholder defiance is due to changes (unknown, ignored or forgotten) that individual business units had to endure as part of the project and, at its conclusion, seek some retribution for these sacrifices. Thus, accompanying the project charter and scope statement is a detailed and holistic account of the exact deliverables that must be realized in order for the project to be classified as successful by the project sponsor and key stakeholders.

Begin by restating the project purpose, desired outcome and portfolio alignment. Then state the specific deliverables that must be produced for the project sponsor to classify this project as successful. You must be very specific; requests and actions that will not be delivered should also be listed. You may want to list easily delivered, in scope tasks that the project sponsor/key stakeholders have placed a heightened value on, but are not part of the critical path. These are considered “easy wins” and help build trust between the project sponsor/key stakeholders and manager.

Value Contracts

Recognition for the results produced by a project, as well as the accountability for the operational faults uncovered during the project, ignite competitive elements in most matrix organizations. Once these competitive forces are in full force, a project manager’s personal contributions may be “selectively remembered.” This lack of recollection eventually forms a common perception about the “value” added by the project manager. In most organizations perception is reality.

Selective perception is a psychological delusion that is dominant in most organizations. Limited time and the strength of interpersonal relationships will cause most senior managers to listen attentively to the gibberish provided by a trusted band of colleagues, fully versed in water cooler dogma, and ignore the lengthy details involved in the project charter they had previously signed.

A value contract is a brief outline (1 page) of the specific behaviors and characteristics that the project sponsor/key stakeholders wish to see the project manager display throughout the engagement. As well, it outlines the Key Performance Indicators to be used when evaluating the project manager’s contribution. Strong relationships, assertive and clear communications are also elements that will strengthen organizational perception regarding the project manager’s role and contribution. If the project manager’s value is contested a Value Contract will serve as a checklist for rebuttal.

George Konstantopoulos, PMP, PgMP, is a managing partner at Welch International Management Consultants Group. He has managed portfolios and executed program and projects in the telecommunications, banking, IT, marketing, utilities, retail and professional services industries. His entrepreneurial spirit and keen business insight have benefited many organizations through his effective consultative engagements and compelling achievements. George regularly lectures on project management and the PMP designation. Additionally, he facilitates quarterly seminars intended to prepare students to write the PMP designation exam. You may contact George at [email protected] or through his blog spot at

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