The Checklist Manifesto suggests all success comes from practice based on principles. Here's the current discussion of both the principles and practices needed for project success.
There are some key points here.
- Defining outcomes in units of measure meaningful to the decision makers is critical. Without the Measures of Effectiveness for the customer, only technical measures are used - Measures of Performance. This is a common problem for IT projects, where the "techies" speak to the customer in their units of measure.
- Defining what done looks like in incremental measures - iterations, rolling wave, releases, drops, or some physical percent complete along the way - is the ONLY way to measure progress. Measuring effort is not, measuring consumption of resources is not. Define what is coming next then measure progress to that.
- The repeated mantra of Risk Management is How Adults Manage Projects (Tim Lister) cannot be over emphasized. All numbers are random numbers, determine the underlying statistical distributions and use that to make decisions.
- Incremental development and emergent requirements are fine. But you MUST have a vision of what done looks like in terms of needed capabilities. Agile calls this an Epic. Others have a Concept of Operations (ConOps) or Statement of Objectives (SOO). This is the anchor for the governance of the project. Any requirements that emerge that do not fit in with the ConOps or SOO need to be seriously questioned - why do you want this?
- On the personnel side, never get diverted by the search for Harmony over Execution. Larry Bosidy says in all You cannot have an execution culture without robust dialogue - one that brings reality to the surface through openness, candor, and informality. This means truth over harmony. This is the source of many failures in the project domain.