How to measure project success? Example per the four dimensions!

This is the third article in a four-article series on the subject of project success. Article 1 was mostly an introduction to the subject; article 2 was explaining the four dimensions, and this article provides an example, real case study.

Introduction

Usually in our classes, such as the Introduction to Project Management, we have the class participants’ work on real projects from their work environment. This is beneficial since the participants can readily relate the learning and apply it, starting from the class, especially when the course is about a project management methodology.

The Background

Almost two years back, we were in such a class. The client was an organization that sells valves and pipes for the petroleum industry. The participants were from different functions. A group of the participants wanted to work on a project, to build a gymnasium at one of its warehouses (facility); this was a real project they were considering.

Based on the previous paragraph, what is the project?

Most will say, build the gymnasium.

Is it?

Is the company in the business of building gymnasiums?

No!

OK, then what is the project?

Maybe we should ask the question differently, what is the business objective for the project, the business driver; business case?

Uh!

Now we understand.

In this case, we can say “improve employee health.”

Consequently, the project is to build a gymnasium to improve employee health.

Great – now we know the project.

Let us pose for a minute; did you realize how one statement, the project idea statement, could mean totally different things? If the team does not understand the business objective, then how can we deliver a successful project?

The Example (Dimensions of Success)

From the previous article, we explained four measures, dimensions of success. Now let us see how we can use these four dimensions on the gymnasium project.

The-Four-Dimensions-of-Project-Success

The SUKAD Way™ | CAM2P™ Model | The Four Dimensions of Project Success

Product Success

Did we deliver the gymnasium in accordance with the project detailed plan (PDP), and per the requirements and specifications? If yes; good, first success measure is achieved.

Project Management Success

The SUKAD Way™ for Measuring Project Success

The SUKAD Way™ for Measuring Project Success

Did we deliver the gymnasium in accordance with the project management plan (PMP)? In other words, did we deliver within the established time, cost, and other metrics?  If yes; excellent, second success measure is also achieved.

Please note, we could have delivered an outstanding gymnasium, per the project management plan, called it a success, and closed the project. However, this would have been applicable – ONLY – If the project statement stated, “build a gymnasium” then we are done, and the next two dimensions would not apply.

However, since we have changed the project statement to, build a gymnasium to improve employee health then we need the other two dimensions.

Project Success

Did we deliver the gymnasium in according to the project authorization (PAD)?

Another way to consider this question would be, did we deliver an acceptable and good standard gymnasium that, the employees would consider using? One might add, over the first six or twelve months since completion of the gymnasium, are employees using the gymnasium? Here, we could have established criteria such as, a percent of employees using the gym, or how often they are using it.

If yes; wonderful, the third success measure is achieved.

It is worth stressing here that we could not have measured this at project completion.

Business Objective Success

The previous dimension could measure project success by measuring usage. However, the most important question is, did the project deliver the expected benefits that we anticipated when we considered the project and authorized it? Did we realize the benefits? The expected benefits were to improve employee health.

It is obvious that one cannot measure success at the completion of the gymnasium. We can only measure the success a year or two after completion, long after the team demobilized.

What we did not discuss here is the criteria to measure success. Per our first article in this series, the criteria must be established during the project feasibility and authorization.

Use and Impact of the Four Dimensions

A question from a reader to the original post led to this additional clarification points.

Scenario 1

If you are a new project manager, and management asks you to build a gymnasium, would you be thinking along the fourth aspect of success, improving employee health? Or, would you take the position “to do as instructed”, just build a gym; which means the facility only.

Scenario 2

Now let us ask the same question with a slightly different idea statement, to improve employee health (no gymnasium is mentioned), what will your project look like? It could include a gymnasium or not; it might include subsidized memberships to a health club; maybe lessons on healthy cooking; it is likely that you would include awareness campaign about good health. At the end – you would introduce ways to improve health but might not consider a gym.

Scenario 3

Will try one more time and ask the same question differently. The idea statement is to build a gymnasium at our facilities to improve employee health. Now, the project is likely to include the elements from the two earlier scenarios, and the chance of success (business objective success) is much higher now.

Final Comment

We did actually test the above scenarios. In other classes, we divide the class in three groups and give them the three different idea statements. Sure enough, in all cases, so far, we have seen similar outcome to what we describe here.

Our next and last article in the series will address  confusion of what we present here versus what the PMBOK® Guide presents.

  • rich_earthpm

    Reading this post is like drawing in a long cool breath of fresh, crisp autumn air in New England.

    Ahhhhh!

    Thank you for so eloquently stating the overarching concept which is behind our book Green Project Management, and which we will carry forward to our foll-up: Sustainability in Projects, Programs, and Portfolios: Realizing Enterprise Benefits and Goals. Even the title sounds like your post.

    It’s very difficult for us to think beyond our project’s product’s delivery but we absolutely must, if for no other reason than to do a superb job for our stakeholders. The “Gymnasium” example is a splendid way to illustrate this.

    Thanks again, Mounir – great work!

    • Mounir Ajam

      Dear Rich

      Thank you for the wonderful feedback – truly appreciate coming back from you. Since we had that exercise on the “Gymnasium” about 4 years ago, I often find myself using it again and again in other courses to demonstrate various points; such as sustainability, strategic – long term thinking – the ability to emphasize governance and control even against a vague concept.

      We are excited to hear about your new book and looking forward to reading it.

      Our best to you

  • Pingback: How to measure project success? CAM2P™ versus PMBOK® Guide | Redefining Project Management()

  • The following are some discussions from the last time we published this post on a different platform … we copy them here without editing.

    I don’t think you need 4 dimensions. Two are plenty. Combine the first two and the last two. Then you have project management success and product (or business) success.
    Posted @ Tuesday, April 03, 2012 11:10 PM by Bill Duncan wrd@pmpartners.com

    • Hi Bill
      I know that the model you advocate has only two dimensions but and I know that you combine them — but based on our observation and experience we see that at least three of the four dimensions in our model are clearly distinct and should not be combined. Only Dimension 3 could be eliminated on some projects but on other projects we also see it to be somewhat different and can stand alone.

      Again – it is different way of looking at things.
      Posted @ Wednesday, April 04, 2012 12:01 PM by mounir ajam mounir.ajam@sukad.com

    • I don’t think I agree with my good friend Bill Duncan. If you are going to combine the first two and the last two, why stop there? Just combine all four and you are back where you started. 🙂
      The merit of the four-part decomposition is that many people pick on only one of the four measures of success and forget about the other three. So this analysis provides a holistic description of project success, a definition of which many erudite pontificators in fashionable magazines fail to provide.
      http://www.maxwideman.com
      Posted @ Sunday, June 10, 2012 12:20 PM by R. Max Wideman maxwideman@shaw.ca

      • Max — “product success” and “business objectives success” as defined are measuring the same thing.

        And “project management success” and “project success” as defined are measuring the same thing.

        What metrics would you use for “project management success” that wouldn’t also apply to “project success”?
        Posted @ Sunday, June 10, 2012 12:37 PM by Bill Duncan wrd@pmpartners.com

    • This approach by SUKAD is one of the most eloquent we’ve seen to describe what we’ve also been saying at EarthPM for about 3 years and cover in detail in our book, Green Project Management. The “Green” in the book, yes, does cover environmental issues, but, like SUKAD, we are focused, as is necessary, on the ‘other green’, that is sustainable economic success. What SUKAD presents here calls to mind our reference to Harry Mullisch’s book, The Discovery of Heaven – with four sections, The Beginning of the Beginning, The End of The Beginning, The Beginning of The End, and The End of the End. Most PMs see their projects as “ending” when they are handed off to operations and they are completely unaffected by the way in which the product of the project performs. Yet, we assert, they should be for altruistic reasons – but also, because paying attention to the product’s steady-state operation will help identify stakeholders, threats, and opportunities. Find out more about this at our site – http://earthpm.com. Thanks for your time. And thanks to SUKAD for raising awareness in this area!
      Posted @ Monday, June 11, 2012 10:56 AM by Rich Maltzman, PMP rich@earthpm.com

      • Max — you missed my point. Talking about “project success” is useless and counter-productive. You have to define specific, measurable criteria, and then have the stakeholder agree to them.

        In your example of the dictatorial PM, it is unreasonable to suggest that the project was wholly unsuccessful just because the PM failed to meet one of the success criteria.

        There’s a more detailed article on my website http://www.pmpartners.com).
        Posted @ Monday, June 11, 2012 11:22 AM by Bill Duncan wrd@pmpartners.com [Delete]
        Rich — you’re a little behind the times. I’ve been advocating for this since the early 1990s, and the 1996 PMBoK Guide includes it as well.
        Posted @ Monday, June 11, 2012 11:24 AM by Bill Duncan wrd@pmpartners.com

        • Bill,

          We acknowledge and respect that this has been expressed before. Not sure that it has been placed properly in a sustainability context. And, to your point – since this has been preached since 1996 and there’s not much traction, maybe it needs a new context and some new energy. That’s where we think we’re very much ahead of the times, and very much in alignment with your thinking.
          Posted @ Monday, June 11, 2012 12:50 PM by Rich Maltzman, PMP rich@earthpm.com

      • To Bill, you said:
        1. “Talking about “project success” is useless and counter-productive.”
        Can I quote you on that??
        2. “it is unreasonable to suggest that the project was wholly unsuccessful just because the PM failed to meet one of the success criteria.”
        Absolutely true, but that line of argument is unlikely to change the view of those stakeholders who felt the project was a failure because of the way it was managed, i.e. exclusive rather than inclusive. There are times when you have to bite the bullet as they say.

        To Rich, you said:
        “There are some for-profit organizations already in this space and acting as if they are non-profits”
        Worse than that, there are some non-profits acting as though they are for-profits. 🙁
        R. Max Wideman
        Posted @ Tuesday, June 12, 2012 12:31 PM by R. Max Wideman maxwideman@shaw.ca

  • Larry

    This is good, however it does not provide for any focus on the Client perception, if the Client is not happy, all is for naught.

    • Hi Larry …

      Also dimensions are measured by the client organization and not a contractor or service provider. Also remember we measure success based on criteria established at the start of the project – so success meaning meeting the criteria. Further, if you notice – Dimension 3 and 4 are about the project success and business objective success. If both of these are successful – why would not the client be happy?

  • Here’s *our* post about *your* post….

    http://www.projectsatwork.com/blog/People-Planet-Profits-and-Projects/4122/

    Again…nice work.

    Rich

  • Mounir,

    Do you mind if we blog about this post (giving you full credit, and referencing it as well)?

    Would like to do this soon if possible.

    Cheers,

    Rich

    • Dear Rich

      Thank you for the interest in re-posting our blog. All of our blog articles are to share openly and feel free to re-post anyone as long as the source is kept and the author/SUKAD is credited.

      Best regards

  • Outstanding philosphy – really one of sustainability thinking, which we think will be inceasingly important to project mgrs.

    Thanks, please visit earthpm.com, this is what we’ve been ‘preaching’ now for about 3 years.

    Cheers

    Rich Maltzman, PMP
    Co-founder EarthPM
    Co-author, Green Project management

    • Dear Rich

      Thank you very much for the kind words. I have just visited EarthPM and i must say nice words. We have been working on something for the future that is somewhat aligned to what you are doing with EarthPM and when we are ready to go public i will share. In general we agree in principal that project managers and project management in general have a responsibility toward sustainability and society in general.

      Take Care
      Mounir A. Ajam