Project Success may not be what you think.

project success image (Demo)

The definition of project success has changed over the last fifty years.  A project was considered to be successful if it was on time, within budget and within the proper scope.  This definition of success is often referred to as the triple constraint. It has been the most widely accepted definition of success in over the last 32 years.  Because of the general acceptance of this definition, it was incorporated into the Project Management Body of Knowledge.   The definition has been used and explained in project management training courses both in academic and in industry.

This definition was expanded to include customer satisfaction as a success criterion.  There are several definitions of project success; however, there is no consensus on the definition of project success.

“Given the specific ambiguity surrounding project success (Belassi & Tukel, 1996), this issue presents significant problems for investigators. As the proverb says, ‘Success is one of the names of God.’ This bit of wisdom is particularly germane: if studies of project success are popular, they have not led to a consensus on, a definition of, nor a means for measuring such success .”

Success is defined as “the favorable or prosperous termination of attempts or endeavors or as the attainment of wealth, position, honors, or the like. “ (Dictionary.com, 2010)    Ralph Waldo Emerson made this interesting statement about the success that we can experience in a more general context:

“I fear the popular notion of success stands in direct opposition to all points to the real and wholesome success. One adores public opinion, the other, private opinion; one, fame, the other, desert; one, feats, the other, humility; one, lucre, the other, love; one, monopoly, and the other, the hospitality of mind.”

This definition points out that success is often viewed in the eyes of the beholder and is determined by the person who is judging success.

Project success then should not be narrowed down and defined with just the past definition of being on time, within budget and with the right scope.  Project success is more than that.

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