One question I often ask of NPI Project Managers is “What is their definition of a successful project?” Obviously the question is more troubling in some sectors than in others.
So in the pharmaceutical industry, where it’s not unheard of to spend an entire career working on new products that never make it to the market, the response may be quite different to working in a branded food producer, where just about anything can be launched.
We met the goals!
But the most common response is “We met the project goals, on time and on budget”, and this is where I take issue.
You see I always have this mental image of two types of Project Manager. One is a train driver, on the rails, steady speed, sticking to a precise schedule; whilst the other is a fire-engine driver, charging through every obstacle and every set of lights to make the “impossible” happen. Both succeed, the only difference is the chaos left in the wake of the fire engine.
That’s why I like to add a fourth criteria as part of my definition of success. Met the project goals, on time, on budget, whilst following the process. We need more train drivers!