Every recipe has basic ingredients and projects have basic factors leading to project success. You will want to keep these success factors front and center throughout the life of your project.
They say if you want to improve your golf swing focus on improving only one element of your golf swing at a time. The principle being if you focus on too many things at once you lose your focus altogether. When it comes to project management there are many elements you can focus on that lead to project success. The same principle applies, however, focus on too many project management principles and nothing gets your attention.
Professors of project management generally agree that the list of important factors leading to project success can be narrowed down to five. This package of five factors is well within our grasp to comprehend and implement. As a project manager, you would do well to embrace these five success factors throughout the life of your project.
This article lists and discusses the five most important factors for a project manager to focus on throughout the life of the project for ultimate project success.
Success Factor 1
Agreement among stakeholders on project objectives and success criteria. If there is disagreement on what constitutes project success then you are off to a bad start. And how will you know when you’ve arrived at project completion? Make certain stakeholders agree on project goals.
A well-known saying is “begin with the end in mind”. In project management terms this is the end product or service the project is producing. In successful projects all stakeholders agree on what the end product or service looks like. In a sense everyone is eyeing the same landmark in the distant horizon throughout the life of the project. Yes, stakeholder agreement on project goals is absolutely essential for project success.
Success Factor 2
A clear plan to guide you through the project life cycle and to serve as a means of progress measurement. This plan should include delegated resource responsibilities. This is where scheduling software comes in handy. Each project plan should be uniquely tailored to the problem at hand. As mentioned good project plans show lines of responsibility. It also provides the necessary details for estimating the cost of resources.
Once a plan is developed it should be fixed and used as a means of measuring progress. In this way the project plan warns when your project effort is not achieving the desired cost, time, and scope objectives.
Success Factor 3
Good continued communication among stakeholders. Successful projects require agreement on goals and how to meet those goals. Throughout the life of the project team members will have to make adjustments to maintain the cost-time-scope equilibrium.
This all requires consensus, coordination, and implementation. And communication is a key element in all these efforts. All project management activities in a sense are an exercise in communication.
Success Factor 4
Scope Control. Scope creep is the project management phenomena where requirements are added to the project little by little as the project progresses. In the end the project deliverable requirements look nothing like the scope specifications that were originally agreed upon at the beginning of the project.
Scope creep is very frustrating for project managers. How can the project manager achieve project objectives if stakeholders keep moving the goal line further and further back? Scope creep is a major threat to the success of the project.
The project manager must manage stakeholder expectations and firmly resist the tendency of stakeholders to continuously add requirements to scope that has already been agreed upon.
From the outset the project manager must make stakeholders understand what can be accomplished considering time and budget constraints. Where legitimate scope changes are requested the project manager needs to ensure that realistic goals are maintained throughout the life of the project. Controlling scope and associated expectations is a major duty of the project manager.
Success Factor 5
Support by Management. Upper management support is essential for project success. Project managers rely on resource and facility managers to provide the necessary labor, equipment, and facility resources to execute the project.
Plans are great, but are unrealistic without proper resources. Management support ensures your project gets the required resources. Project managers also do not always possess the decision making authority they need, particularly, if the project does not maintain the time-cost-scope equilibrium.
Project management is a learned art and science. There is much that goes into successful project management. However, a focus on everything results in attention to nothing. Therefore, focus on the majors, i.e. five factors, which have proven to contribute to project success.
- Agree on project goals.
- Use scheduling software to plan the schedule, delegate resources, and monitor progress.
- Continue good communication throughout the changing landscape of the project.
- Prevent scope creep, and manage stakeholder expectations.
- Stay on the organizational vine to get upper management support for required resources and decision-making authority.
Understanding and applying these major principles of project management will help guard your project against pitfalls and strategically position your project for ultimate success.
For a more in-depth and comprehensive study on project management principles read “The Fast Forward MBA in Project Management”, Eric Verzuh