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.
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.
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 the company in the business of building gymnasiums?
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?
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.