What is success, updated,


At EarthPM, we do some serious thinking about projects, project management, project managers, and their stakeholders.  One of the recurring questions which interests us is this one:

What is project success?

It’s much more complicated than it sounds, but it can be as simple as the smile you see above.

We will be presenting in several venues over the next few months: at the New England PMI Summit, at the APCON2013 conference in San Jose, Costa Rica, at the PMI North America Congress in New Orleans, Louisiana and at the PMO Symposium in San Diego, California.  As we develop the workshops for these sessions, more and more we are discovering that the intersection of PM and sustainability has to do with punctuation.  By that, we mean that as a discipline, project managers like to put a period at the end of our project.  Or perhaps an exclamation point.  But perhaps it should be a comma.

Heresy!  Heresy!  We already hear you saying it.  Projects, by definition, have a definitive start and finish.  They can’t end in a comma!


(See… we did it!)

Well, project managers can end their projects with a comma.  And they should.  And we’re going to leave it like that, hanging there, like that, for now, and have you stay tuned.  The smiling young lady at the top of our post is a clue – a strong hint of things to come,


(and yes, we ended in a comma),


The most recent issue of PM Network magazine has a fantastic article called “The Value Proposition”.  Below is the opening quote, from Elizabeth Virdin, PMP(R), one of the better, and most ‘sustainability-oriented’ quotes we’ve seen in a long time:


It’s her view of value – and aligns with a mature view of “success”.  The smiling girl at the top of our post is indicative of a sustainably happy stakeholder set – happy with the value that the project brings in its steady state.  THAT IS SUCCESS.

And this is not just happy academic stuff.  It’s extremely real and extremely tied in to cash.

Have a look at this graphic, also from the same article:


That’s a significant difference.  And all it’s saying (like we [and others] have been for years) is that if you connect your project’s objectives to those of the organization – including sustainability objectives – you do better.  And it’s doubly about sustainability, because as Elizabeth so eloquently put it, you save wasted effort, energy, and materials if you’ve developed maturity in this area.

We’ll have much more to say about this at our upcoming presentations,