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!

The sweet smell of success… in a gymnasium?



OK, we admit it.  One normally would not associate the … well, let’s call it the aroma of a gymnasium to be the first thing to come to mind when you think of the sweet smell of success.

But a gymnasium can be – and it should be – a way to make you think of success.

Let me explain.  I suggest that you have a look at this tremendous blog post by Mounir Ajam of SUKADClick here to do that right now.  But then come back…for the rest of the story.

Let’s assume for the moment, though, that you are a “Type A” project manager who doesn’t follow instructions well, has little time for this blog post, never-mind another one, so you just kept on reading and here you are without going off and reading Mounir’s blog post.

I bet I gotcha!  Here you are.  Well…one more chance to read that first…

Well, even if you haven’t done that little eeny-teeny-tiny piece of homework, we can sum things up for you.

In a project which happens to have a gymnasium as its product, when is it done?  When is it successful?  It depends on how success is defined, of course, and that should be done in the project charter.

Let’s say that this organization is particularly mature and sustainably-minded.  By the way, you’ll note that the element of GREEN never comes up here.  Sustainability and ‘green’ are not synonyms.  Here, we are thinking about sustainability in terms of the economic and social aspects; we are thinking holistically about what success means and why the gymnasium was being built in the first place.

The blog post talks of 4 measures of project success, Product Success, Project Management Success, Project Success, and Business Objective Success.  It’s not a perfect match but it’s actually quite like the section of our book which refers to Harry Mulisch’s Discovery of Heaven and its table of contents, which include:

The Beginning of the Beginning

The End of the Beginning

The Beginning of the End

The End of the End

In the blog post, Mounir points out that the project charter should say that the project’s objective is to build a gymnasium to improve employee health.  That simple restating of the objective helps us think through our natural stopping point (The End of the Beginning) and through to the realization of benefits.

Below is a figure used by permission which shows this pictorially.  However, once again, we suggest that you get the full “whiff” of the gymnasium story by going to the original blog post.


Figure courtesy of: The SUKAD Way™ | CAM2P™ Model | The Four Dimensions of Project Success

And if this intrigues you, this is exactly what we’re going to be stressing in our upcoming book, “Sustainability in Projects, Programs, and Portfolios: Realizing Enterprise Benefits and Goals”.  Or maybe, we should have called it, “The Sweet Smell of The Gymnasium”!