Non-Traditional (Subjective) Measures of Project Success

The aforementioned objective measures of project success always have to be reviewed and evaluated, both during and after a completed project. Scope, quality, schedule, and budget are the underpinnings of every project, and they should always be at the heart of determining success.

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But there are other, not-so objective metrics of success on a project. Even if you have delivered 100% of the scope, within budget and schedule, and meeting 100% of the quality requirements, your project can be considered a failure.

Why is this? Answer: our stakeholders and project team are comprised of human beings, and humans have subjective feelings and thoughts. Everything can go technically right on a project, but if your key customer was dissatisfied with the process, you and your project can forever be tainted by their feelings. It’s not always fair, but this is the reality of working with people.

Worse, you can’t always control these types of things, but being cognizant of them ahead of time might allow you to help mitigate potential issues before they grow into full-blown ill-will.

Specific areas to keep in mind as you plan and execute your project include:

  • Stakeholder Expectations. One of your key duties on a project is to get to know and understand your stakeholders. One might want lots of interactions, updates, and reports, while another might want only to know when things are going badly or a problem has occurred. No two stakeholders are alike, so taking the time to feel out and adapt to individual requirements is very important to managing the perception of whether your project is going well or not.

  • Vendor Interactions. Another area where you and your project teams’ reputation could be sullied is via the vendors and contractors you work with. You will have little direct control over how a vendor perceives their interactions with you, but keeping your relationship open, honest, and transparent is a powerful starting point. And don’t forget to pay your bills and invoices on time, too!

  • Project Team Experience. If your team is unhappy and/or dissatisfied with the experience of working on your project if they feel like disposable resources and not valued people, if they want to leave and never work for you and/or your organization again—well, you have a problem. Most industries are small, and post-project word of mouth is a powerful force to be reckoned with. Again, you can run a technically perfect project, but if the reputation of working with you is bad, the outside world can and will begin to view your project as a failure, not a success.

In a perfect world, we project managers would all be judged by objective standards of project execution—but we don’t live in a perfect world. Understanding that the experiences that your stakeholders, vendors, and project team have during the course of your project is the first step to helping ensure that the overall project is viewed as a success. For better or worse, perception is often reality.

The ultimate goal is to deliver the scope on time, budget and within spec—and finish in a way where all the key players want to immediately jump back in with you and do it all over again.