Two simple questions about project success

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Should we still be measuring project success on a 'on time', 'to quality', 'in budget' basis'? We all know that the vast majority of projects (actually around 85%) don't deliver against the original baseline and business case.

Given this is the case, and it doesn't really seem to be getting any better, should we be looking for other ways of deciding how projects measure up? Ask yourself two simple questions:

  1. Do you know about, or have you ever been involved in, a project that either went over time or over budget or under-delivered but was still seen as a success?
  2. Have you worked on projects that stuck to their timings and costs but were seen to be a failure?

You might well, like us, have answered 'yes' to both questions. Interesting isn't it? But what does it tell us? Whilst time, cost and quality are all important, they certainly don't define success on their own. We'd go a step further and say that actually it tells us next to nothing about the success of an initiative, yet it's used as a measure of successful management. This raises two more really important questions:

  1. If time, cost and quality don't really tell us a lot about success, then what does?
  2. How can we, as project managers, ensure we rise to the management challenge of getting into the 15% who do deliver to their baseline time, cost and quality?

Now we, at CITI, think we know the answers to both of these questions but we'd love to hear your views too!


Rupert Fairclough
Managing Consultant, CITI Limited


Rupert Fairclough

Rupert Fairclough

I facilitate change by solving problems and coaching managers to be better at what they do
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