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Three Keys to Project Management Success

Project management is both in the art and the science. In my 25 years of managing projects, I have discovered the following three keys for project management success:

  1. Setting Proper Expectations
  2. Commitment to Success
  3. Methodology Execution

Setting Proper Expectations

Expectations are not set to minimize the objectives of a project, but to ensure its success. The nature of the project, the current state of the business process, and the willingness to make the associated investment determines proper expectations.

While at Accenture I learned, the following four levers in managing projects in a class call PM FUN:


Quality is a unique aspect of project that lurks beneath the obvious aspects of project management. How accurate are the plans, budget and schedule? When you fly an airplane, landing success must be 100%. Is perfect quality a reasonable expectation? In manufacturing companies often set goals for defect rates. On an ERP project for a private equity firm, the managing partner came in and stated that our goal must be zero defects. In an environment with an extremely high defect rate, this expectation was not only unrealistic, but counterproductive. I suggested a more realistic expectation to set defect rates based upon improvement rates. By reducing the current defect rate by 50% every four months during the upcoming year, we would reduce the current defect rate by 87.5% in one year.


How much work will the transformation take. Setting realistic  expectations requires  a deep understanding of the scope of work.  An accurate scope  provides the requisite information to set timelines, budgets and resource requirements

Resources and Time

Rresources and time are closely associated. There are some tasks that you cannot complete faster with time. Obviously, you can’t take nine women to make a baby in one month, however; there are many tasks where additional resources can increase the speed of accomplishment. When Increasing resources you will come to a point of diminishing returns. Understanding the relationship between time, resources and effort lead to developing a work program that includes the appropriate resources  the work to accomplish a goal in a specified amount of time.


Resources include people, equipment, computing, power, etc. These resources in various levels of quality. The quality of resources often correlates with the cost of those resources. For example, more experienced personnel tend to cost more.

Setting Realistic Expectations

In the above manufacturing example, a rapid 50% decrease defects was very reasonable based upon the current effect state. Consider that an outside consultant with industry expertise can bring external ideas and techniques to gather the low hanging fruit quickly. The second 50% improvement takes more resources and employee change management to achieve results. The last 50% improvement is always the hardest. In the end, most companies are thrilled with an 87.5% reduction in defects within a year.

Setting goals too high can be counterproductive. If goals are too low, the benefits are likely minimized. Realistic expectations, like an 87.5% reduction, can be stretch goals when given the appropriate time. How a company approaches project management metrics is dependent upon many factors including corporate culture and their investment in success.

Commitment to Success

Commitment to success includes more than just providing resources to a project to meet expectations. Company executives must make a commitment to  the project with their time and leadership. There is a huge difference between providing resources and empowering a team to make decisions and providing resources and leaving them alone to fail. A leader should expect periodic updates and inclusion in decisions that are critical to the success of the project. True leaders encourage questions from the team that warrant their expertise, experience, and guidance. Although this may sound obvious, too often executives don’t take the extra communication steps necessary to ensure project management success.

A commitment to success includes:

  • Empowering the team with sufficient resources
  • Demonstrations of support with words and actions
  • Appropriate involvement at critical junctures during the project.

Methodology Execution

One of my favorite sayings by the methodologies a dime a dozen. There are many amazing methodologies available for almost any type of project. The key to a successful project includes selecting an appropriate methodology, tailoring it to the specific needs of your project, and executing that methodology effectively.

A properly executed methodology:

  • Clearly outlines the work effort, timing and measures for success
  • Provides clear communication of progress
  • Anticipates risk and provides mitigation strategies
  • Provides guidance for decision making
  • Results in no surprises

An effective project manager does much more than track task progress.   Understanding the business objectives and underlying subject matter is critical to identification of issues before recovery is imperiled. 

Project Management Success

At I-BN our team provides project and program management services for partners and customers through our CXO Services team. Because we have worked with many companies and products, we have used numerous selection, implementation, improvement and transformation methodologies. Regardless of the specific methodology, the keys to project management success are predicated on getting the right manager on the job.

  • An executive with industry experience, who has worked in management and knows the subject matter of the project can relate to all constituents
  • For larger projects, consider a manager who has worked in a Project Management Office (PMO) and has a PMP Certification.

To lean more about I-BN CxO services complete a CxO Exploration request

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