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International Journal of Project Management 22 (2004) 349350 www.elsevier.com/locate/ijproman


Five necessary conditions for project success

Research done by two doctoral students of mine has identied what appear to be four necessary conditions for project success. Wateridge [4] identied one, and Mller [1] identied three more. These are things that u must be in place before a project can have a successful outcome. None of them unfortunately are sucient conditions, that is none of them on their own will guarantee success. Since they are all necessary conditions, they must all be there to deliver success, but even if the four are all present something else can still cause the project to fail. But if all four are present, that will greatly increase the chance of a successful outcome. If just one is absent, failure beckons. So what are these four necessary conditions for project success? Wateridge (1995) In investigating success criteria on projects, John Wateridge discovered that a necessary condition for project success was for the stakeholders to have a common understanding of the success criteria before the project started. Where they did not, then it usually led to failure, at least in the eyes of some of the stakeholders. This is fairly obvious. The success criteria should be agreed with the stakeholders before the project starts because if you dont: 1. Some stakeholders may not share the common view about what the project is doing. 2. Quite small dierences in direction at the start can lead to quite large divergence in position at the end. For instance, the project team may agree the project objectives, but dierences of opinion about the relative importance of time, cost or functionality can lead to quite substantially dierent outcomes. As well as agreeing the success criteria with the stakeholders before you start, I suggest you need to go on reminding yourself and the stakeholders what they are, and to agree any changes, at conguration review points throughout the project. Mller (2003) u Ralf Mller was investigating communication strucu tures on projects. But in the process discovered three necessary conditions for project success:
0263-7863/$30.00 2004 Published by Elsevier Ltd and IPMA. doi:10.1016/j.ijproman.2004.02.001

(a) There must be high levels of collaboration between the project manager and project owner. The project must be viewed as a partnership by all the project participants. The project is a temporary organization [2] and the people working for that temporary organization must work well together. This is fairly obvious, but unfortunately, so often the project becomes a fearful battle between the project manager and project owner. This is particularly the case between the owner and the contractor under confrontational contracting practices so often adopted. Turner and Mller [3] oer the principal-agency reu lationship between the owner and project manager as an explanation for why the latter happens. (b) The owner should only impose medium levels of structure on the project manager, not too much structure, not too little. Too much structure, and the project manager will not have sucient exibility to deal with risks and uncertainties that arise. Too little and laissez-faire management and anarchy will reign. The owner should agree clear objectives with the project manager (that is part of high collaboration) and then give the manager guidance about how those objectives should be best achieved, but leave the project manager room to manoeuvre to deal with risk and uncertainty. I would say that this means the project manager should be empowered. Empowerment is agreeing objectives, setting a framework, but leaving the manager exibility to make choices within that framework. Unfortunately, the principalagency relationship, and the associated adverse selection and moral hazard problems [3] causes the owner to try to impose very tight and rigid working practices on the manager. (c) The owner should demand regular project performance reports. Mller [1] discovered there was a u mismatch between the project performance reports wanted by project owners and what project managers wanted to supply. Owners had a much greater desire for project performance reports than project managers were willing to give. Where owners demanded the project performance reports, the projects were more likely to be successful, and where they did not the project was unsuccessful. Interestingly, where the owners demanded the project


Editorial / International Journal of Project Management 22 (2004) 349350

performance reports, their perception of the projects performance was lower than actual, they had a pessimistic view of project performance. Where they did not demand the reports, they had a very rosy picture of project performance, thinking it was better than actual. Mller [1] also noticed that u clients who wanted the performance reports, wanted them quite frequently, once every two weeks. They were just about willing to accept them once a month, but no less frequently. Owners also wanted project managers to make a weekly verbal report in person. Although they liked the formal written reports, they wanted to be able to quiz the project manager and read their body language to tell whether they were telling the truth or not. Thus the four necessary conditions for project success are: 1. The success criteria should be agreed with the stakeholders before the start of the project, and repeatedly at conguration review points throughout the project. 2. A collaborative working relationship should be maintained between the project owner and project manager, with both viewing the project as a partnership. 3. The project manager should be empowered, with the owner giving guidance as to how they think the project should be best achieved, but allowing the project

manager exibility to deal with unforeseen circumstances as they see best. 4. The owner should take an interest in the performance of the project.

[1] M ller R. Communication of information technology project u sponsors and sellers in buyerseller relationships, DBA Thesis. UK: Henley Management College, Henley-on-Thames; 2003. [2] Turner JR, Mller R. On the nature of the project as a temporary u organization. Int J Project Manage 2003;21(1). [3] Turner JR, Mller R. Communication and cooperation on projects u between the project owner as principal and the project manager as agent. In: Huemann M, editors. Proceedings of the Research Conference Vienna X, Vienna: Project Management Group, University of Economics and Business Administration; October 2003. [4] Wateridge JF. IT projects: a basis for success. Int J Project Manage 1995;13(3):16972.

J. Rodney Turner Wildwood Manor Close, East Horsley Surrey KT24 6SA, UK Tel.: +44 1483 282344; fax: +44 1483 281 281 E-mail address: ijpm@europrojex.co.uk