De Bono Six Hats

Are projects done in a vacuum?

In numerous discussions online, even in guides like the PMBOK Guide, there is so much focus on the project rather than the organization and on the project manager rather than organizational project management.

What I mean is

related to many topics. For example:


Is tailoring that work up to the project manager and project management (including the methodology) must be tailored to every project, or is tailoring fundamentally an organizational activity, part of the organizational project management system. Read more in this past article. There is more than one article related to this topic and searching on tailoring on our blog site will open them up.


Here is a similar question: is the definition of project success, (or “Done” in Agile, as a colleague suggested) project specific or organizationally set? Our response on this point is next and for more reading on the SUKAD Four Dimensions of Project Success, you find articles here on our site.

Why do some professionals in project management think that success (and “Done) is project specific and not organizational specific?

Sure the technical things are project specific and vary from project to project but the core definitions should be established in the OPMS (Organizational Project Management System).

For example, Done.

  • If you are the one drafting a report — only — done means draft is done.
  • If you are responsible to draft, get comments, revise, finalize and get the report approved, then Done is achieved after all of these things.
  • On the other hands, we can go further and say Done means report’s recommendation implemented.

Back to Success! One of the SUKAD Four Dimensions is Project Management Success, which means completing the project within the established parameters. The established parameters have to be defined by the organization (OPMS; not project specific). For example:

  • In one organization established parameters might mean below or on budget and ahead or on schedule.
  • For others, like me, it is +/- 10% of approved budget and schedule. Which means a project completing at 109% of the budget can over expended but still considered successful, PM wise.

Even technical success and all other dimensions have to be defined by the organization; not the project or project manager. The criteria and dimensions of success, again are organizationally set – technical specifications vary based on the type of work.

I can go on but I think I made the point.

What does it mean if the PM is doing these things?

To me, it means that the organization DOES NOT have an OPMS (Organizational Project Management System), or it is weak, or it is left to each project manager to do as they wish. In either case, it is a sign of weakness or a low level of organizational project management maturity.

Closing Comments

I think the reasons there are so many debates on waterfall versus agile, scrum, lean, Kanban, etc. is due to lack of standardized processes and lack of project management maturity or understanding of core principles.

The project manager is a key resource but not the only one; there should be a project management team and project team.

De Bono Six Hats

Projects are not done in a vacuum, they are part of an organizational work (portfolio, program, etc.), therefore, we must manage them by following the organizational processes, methods, policies, including the definition of project life cycle, success, etc. Organizations must have OPMS and remember, the project manager is not the jack of all trades.


Finally, projects are unique – project management (within a domain and organization) is not unique.

What do you think? I would like to hear opinions, especially from those who might have a different view.