Project success is measured by comparing the actual performance with what was budgeted, planned and committed – typically with respect to parameters of cost, schedule and quality. Projects that meet all parameters are considered completely successful, and those that meet some parameters are considered less successful. Projects that fail in most/ all parameters are labeled as failures. Of course, sophisticated systems may even use the extent to which they missed the objectives (near miss or missed by a mile/ kilometer) as a factor in determining the degree of success or failure.
Is this really how a high maturity (HM) organization (in terms of the CMMI® framework) should evaluate project success? I believe that the refinement in process and project management maturity should be used to fine-tune how we evaluate success.
A HM organization is “aware” that all processes have variations inherent in them. It “knows” that projects (that are composed of the processes) have a probability of achieving success in their objectives, but success is not guaranteed. The role of project management (esp. QPM) is to continually evaluate the probability of success and maximize the conditions to improve that probability.
When a single project goes through its life, those probabilities will play out. Which means that even if the probability of completing the project within its budget was 90%, a single project can overshoot the budget. Of course, if we run similar projects millions of times, only 10% of the projects will overshoot the budget; but we have only one project here. In such an “aware” organization, is the use of “actual budget compliance” a right way to measure success? If so, how is this organization different from a non-HM organization?
I believe that in a HM organization, project success should not be measured by after-the-fact results, but by the rigor and continual alignment of the project to maximize the probability of success. So, in a HM organization, a project is successful, if and only if:
* The project, at start-up, consciously makes choices (composes the defined process, aligns plans) that maximize the probability of meeting its multiple objectives
* The project continually evaluates the probability of meeting the objectives and revises its choices to maximize its probability of success
Now, in such an organization, the “best project” award may be given to a project which in the conventional sense has actually failed 🙂 – such an organization would be truly acting on the belief- “if we implement the process, the results will eventually follow”.