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Courageous Conversation video 2016: We really need to talk about the world in which all projects succeed

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When you first heard the goal of a world where all projects succeed, did you laugh derisively? Why are we so far away from the wonderful world where all projects succeed? What is ‘success’, anyway? And do we really want all projects to succeed?

This video is based on ideas expressed at a Knowledge SIG Courageous Conversation with Professor Eddie Obeng in September 2015. Watch the video. Tell us what you think and share your own experiences in the comments. How do you measure the success of projects? Do you think all projects should succeed?

Judy Payne
Knowledge Specific Interest Group Chair


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  1. David MacLeod
    David MacLeod 19 February 2016, 04:12 PM

    Definition of a project - a unique, transient endeavour undertaken to achieve planned objectives (APM glossary).  Unique = inherently risky, and transient also means a temporary team.  These characteristics (and the fact that we are human beings) of course mean that all projects cannot succeed.  So to answer the narrator's question, I DID laugh when I heard that this was to be the APM's goal.That doesn't mean that much more can be done to improve success rates and the content of the video tackles key areas.  Getting sponsors to undertstand that TCQ are not objectives but constraints, would be a major step in the right direction.Understanding that the narrator's example of 'more time talking than doing' is the right approach rather than the (imposed) pre-eminent project management method of JDI.Crucially, getting a clear, shared view of the problem (or opportunity) is a key step.  I like a quote attributed by some to Einstein - "If I had one hour to save the world, I would spend 55 minutes defining the problem and then 5 minutes solving it."

  2. Robert Buttrick
    Robert Buttrick 19 February 2016, 03:02 PM

    I agree with the analysis and love the “Obeng” twist at the end . . . in the meantime let me briefly give you my take:Successful project management, denoted by the iron triangle, delivers the scope, on time and to budget;A successful project is one where the outcomes and benefits you need are achieved and outweigh the costs – a viable project;A successful organisation is one which runs it bau and has enough successful projects to keep moving forward.I’ve been advocating this approach since 1997 when I first published “Project Workout”; I also published a paper, in 2007, in the APM Year book called “Excellence is not enough” on this theme.  Here is a bit more on this in my blog: presented this at the BCS last week and it was an eye-opener for them. My thinking on achieving real success in practice has moved a few step on and I now challenge the traditionally hels view on project scope and its impact on success . . . . . but that is enough for now.

  3. Andrew Wall
    Andrew Wall 10 February 2016, 02:36 PM

    Well - That wasnt what I expected !I really like the style of this which provided 12 minutes of very thought provoking material. "An over fixation on Time, Cost and Quality" Did someone just say that in a PM forum? Im sure everyone will identify with the examples and challanges that are put forward in this - I particularly like the idea of reframing the problem and the example of slower trains, but I wont spoil the punchline for anyone who hasnt watched it yet.If this is how the video turned out the live event must have been great....Thanks 

  4. Judy Payne
    Judy Payne 17 February 2016, 01:08 PM

    It's all too easy to focus on time, cost and quality - especially when these are the metrics used to assess our performance as project managers. But what do we do when we disagree with the need for a project or the way the benefits have been put together? I'd be interested to read stories from anyone who has faced this dilemma and found a way out of it.

  5. Duncan Ross Russell
    Duncan Ross Russell 09 February 2016, 10:44 AM

    Thank you for sharing these ideas of success.  I totally agree that we need to be much clearer on the definitions of project success and to encourage open debate that will move us away from simplistic performance indicators.  I have suggested a way of achieving this in my articles on Integrated Project Management, specifically in my piece on Clarity of Purpose.