There's a continuing discussion on LinkedIn and Twitter about project success, the waste of certain activities on projects, and of course the argument without end on estimating the cost of producing the value from projects. It's really a argument without evidence, since some of the protagonist in the estimating discussion have yet to come up with alternatives.
I've come to understand Project Success is multidimensional a few years back after reading "Reinventing Project Management." Aaron Shenhar and Dov Dir, Harvard University Press. The other book that changed my view of the world was IT Governance: How Top Performers Manage IT Decision Rights for Superior Results, Peter Weill and Jeanne W. Roos, Harvard University Press.
This last book should put a stake in the heart of #NoEstimates, since the decision rights for those needing and asking for the cost and schedule for the business capabilities belongs to those with the money, not those spending the money.
A summary of the book can be found in the paper, "Project Success: A Multidimensional Strategic Concept," Aaron Shenhar, Dov Dvir, Ofer Levy, and Alan Maltz, Long Range Planning 34, (2001) pp 699-725.
In many cases there is not a "product" per se, but a service. These are wrapped in a larger context in today's enterprise paradigm as "capabilities." Provided the capabilities to accomplish a goal, mission, or business outcome. This is done through products and processes. Both are used by people, other processes, and other products to accomplish other goals, mission, or outcomes. This is the System of Systems view of the "project" paradigm.
Shenhar and Dvir's research along with Levy and Maltz in the paper showed there are 4 success dimensions.
- Project Efficiency - meeting schedule goals, meeting budget goals, meeting the technical project goals.
- These goals start with estimates of the cost, schedule, and technical performance possibilities.
- These are estimates and estimates have confidence intervals.
- With these estimates, the simplest business assessment can be made. The Return on Investment = (Value - Cost) / Cost.
- More complex assessment are actually needed of course. Capabilities Based Planning is one approach, so is Real Options, Balanced Scorecard, and others.
- The customer - who ever that is defined as - bought a capability to do something.
- This something can be a business process, a mission fulfillment, a service, a process.
- The something is defined by the users of the something.
- Success starts with the assessment of the Capability to fulfill its need. This is a strategy making process.
- In Balanced Scorecard this is defined in the Strategy Map for the business or the project.
- In this paradigm, success is assessed by Measures of Effectiveness and Measures of Performance.
- Projects and their outcomes rarely stand alone or have a terminal state - retirement or obsolescence of the outcomes.
- One measure of success of the project is it's ability - the project outcomes, processes used to build them, and the people who did the work - to be the basis of future projects, products, or services.
- This evolutionary approach is an assessment in itself.
With this paradigm, principles, practices, and processes become the basis of "project management," and the resulting product or service. But the measures of success are better described by Shenhar and Dvir model, since that are the direct consequences of all the enablers of that success.
So Here's the Killer Question(s)
- If we are working to produce value, do we know the cost of producing that value? Does that cost to produce meet the business goals of those paying us? If it's our own money, does that cost to produce meet our own business goals?
- If we are working to produce value, do those paying us - or ourselves - have a time when this value is needed to meet their goals or our goals.
- Do those we're working for - or ourselves - have an understanding of what capabilities are needed from our work efforts to meet a business goal, fulfill a mission or accomplishment an outcome?