Golden Threads, and Ruby Slippers


In our new book, Driving Project, Program, and Portfolio Success (and in our writings on sustainability in PM for years and years) we have insisted that greater long-term benefits are derived when a project has a solid connection – a ‘golden thread’ to the mission, vision, and values of the organization for which the project is being conducted.
Now, out comes the latest PMI “Pulse of the Profession” report, entitled “Capturing the Value of Project Management Through Decision Making”. This extensive study of over 1200 project managers illustrates these points very well. With supporting data, no less. We highly recommend reading the entire report.
But before you do, we wanted to point you to a couple of graphics that caught our eye.
First up: look at the relationship between improvements available to projects that are familiar with the strategy of their enterprises.  Projects which do this significantly outperform their peers in meeting goals, staying within budget, and finishing on time.


This further illustrates the fact that although the long-term thinking we espouse is related to things like Corporate Social Responsibility – being a solid corporate citizen in terms of the community and the environment, the benefits of connecting your project to your enterprise’s strategy yields tangible project benefits. In other words, doing good yields doing well.

That said, and with this data available for a while at the corporate level, (we could point you to the MIT/BCG Sustainability Studies) you would think that project decision-makers would be constantly checking in on the quality and intensity of this golden thread. You’d think they’d want it to be a golden rope! But no, only 20% of these 1000+ projects always had enough familiarity with organizational strategy to be able to make sound project decisions – decisions that would be connected to the enterprise mission, vision, and values.  See the data below:

familiarity with org strat

Another point we make in the book is that the definition of success is more long-term than the project’s completion – it should consider post project benefits realization. This study included a question about that as well, and the results are not so pretty:


According to these results, organizations only do this about half of the time, with some organizations NEVER looking to see if a project is providing those long-term benefits. In our book we talk of Project Efficiency (how well the project was run), Project Effectiveness (whether the project at least at first, provides expected benefits) and Project Endurance (whether or not the project provides sustained, long-term benefits, and avoids any long-term effects, such as a waste by-product). We insist that a truly successful project gets an “A” for all three “E’s”.
In our book we discuss the Three Click Challenge. Here, strengthened by the data in this excellent PMI study, we re-issue that challenge. You’ll have to read the book to find out what it is, but to further pique your interest, it involves, of all things, ruby slippers. Yep, those slippers. Yes…. From that movie.
Slippers or not – this Pulse of the Profession report is excellent work and worth a read.
Make a good decision – and at least flip through it!

Workin’ on a Chain Gang

“In all projects, a number of decisions are made.  Many think of decision making as the core activities of a project manager; thus, competence in decision making and tools to aid the decision-making process are of crucial importance for project success”.

This is the opening paragraph of the first article (“Project Decision Chain“) in the August/September issue of the PM Journal.  The article, by authors Rolstadas, Pinto, Falster, and Venkataraman, from practical academics at Penn State University and the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, is an excellent – and unexpectedly ‘readable’ – one, covering the science and art of decision-making in PM, making the case for more formality and rigor in our discipline.

In effect, we work on project teams (gangs) and oversee chains of decisions.  So yes, indeed, we are out there, working on a chain gang!

But back to the article.  The part that caught OUR attention was the section in which they spend extra attention distinguishing between project success and project management success, just as we do in our upcoming book, Driving Sustainable Success in Projects, Programs and Portfolios”.

Pinto, et al, use the same example of the Sydney Opera House and its long-term considered success as a landmark building even though the project itself was way over budget and exceedingly late.  We like their use of the terms process and outcome models to differentiate the way many look at the world as compared to how we assert project managers should be looking at the world.  The process model focuses on project KPIs like real-time project spending and schedule measurements, versus outcome models, which look at the long-term provision of benefits (or not) by the product of the project.

We highly recommend that you include this in your reading this month.  It would be a good decision on your part!