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What is a Successful Project?

I noticed that a well respected PM guru has stated that he “believes that the triple constraint, as we know it, may have to be modified to include a value component for these nontraditional projects and the traditional earned value measurement system will be replaced with a value measurement methodology.”

What he may be getting at is the recognition that there are two principal criteria for project success. One is the traditional triple constraints based criteria and the other is the value that the project result brings. There’s nothing new here.

Don’t Over Simplify!

Let’s not over simplify by merging these two together and making the PM feel as if she should be defining the product and making portfolio management decisions.

The project manager delivers “products”. While the PM may be able to influence the value derived from that product, he or she usually has little input or control. Project manager performance is primarily measured on how well project scope, cost and time objectives have been met.

Of course there are other criteria, including the degree to which the PM can collaborate at the program and portfolio level, coach and mentor, build strong relationships, etc. But these without meeting objectives are irrelevant.

What is Value?

Value is the perceived impact (positive or negative) of the project and its results on the organization and its environment. Did the product make or save money? Did it destroy or enhance the physical and emotional environment?

Based on the PMI model, value or benefits are the focus of the program. This distinction is based on the recognition that operational use is often far more complex than product delivery. In operational use there are clients, users, support people and systems, relationship managers, etc. managing ongoing activities. The ongoing nature of operations and use adds greater complexity because it implies adapting to change within the organization, in the marketplace or in the wider environment, over an extended timeframe.

The PM Role

The PM should certainly be aware of and knowledgeable about the business and organizational implications of the project. The PM is more than a simple craftsman; he or she must consider the business and architectural work related to the project. In this way, as much as it is possible, the project manager can influence project decisions in light of the long term value perspective.

There is a tough balancing act among the trades-offs between long term value and short term delivery time and cost. It requires leadership from above the PM. The program manager, sponsors, product managers, marketing, sales and operations managers, and client ombudsmen must be responsible for delivering value. In this realm, the single point of responsibility is not the PM.

Who is it in your environment?

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George Pitagorsky

George Pitagorsky, integrates core disciplines and applies people centric systems and process thinking to achieve sustainable optimal performance. He is a coach, teacher and consultant. George authored The Zen Approach to Project Management, Managing Conflict and Managing Expectations and IIL’s PM Fundamentals™. He taught meditation at NY Insight Meditation Center for twenty-plus years and created the Conscious Living/Conscious Working and Wisdom in Relationships courses. Until recently, he worked as a CIO at the NYC Department of Education.

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