When reading the project management literature one can often see that high failure rates are associated with projects. There are usually a variety of reasons why projects fail. However, we must also wonder about the definition of failure, for example, if a project is over budget and behind schedule, and, yet has a significant positive impact on the organization and the end-users are happy with the deliverables and use them to their full potential, is that a failure?
From a project management control point of view and apriori project expectations perspective, cost overruns could be viewed as failure, however, when budget estimates don’t align with actuals there could be legitimate and acceptable reasons for that.
Taking a different tack, if we focus on deliverable impact, stakeholder satisfaction and include a metric around usage (adoption) of the deliverables we might get a very different measure of success. One project manager researcher I knew, was attempting to find correlation between end-user perceptions prior to project start and adoption rate after the project closure, his hypothesis was that, if a project is viewed negatively prior to its start by the end-users, then no matter what is delivered, it will be negatively received by the end-user.
Using this set of metrics around satisfaction, we have designed a simulation called Milestone, which provides the players the opportunity to manage 5 very different project types and while focusing on the traditional metrics of cost, time, etc. the simulation also places a great emphasis on stakeholder satisfaction. With the key takeaway being that the mechanical aspects of project management need to be completed such as budget, but a more sophisticated project manager also focuses on people, their perceptions, expectations and needs. Perhaps this approach calls for more emotional intelligence, communication, stakeholder management and leadership from project managers. See it at: http://www.experientialsimulations.com/Ethics_Simulations_PM.html