Project Manager Success Criteria

By Robert Youker



The thesis of this article is that there is overwhelming evidence that exam-based PM certification systems and project management bodies of knowledge do not measure the most important factors for success in managing projects. To prove this point I will summarize research by Professor Owen Gadeken of the Defense Systems Management College at Fort Belvoir, Virginia, Professor John Kotter of the Harvard Business School and a recent book by Justin Menkes.

Owen Gadeken has conducted more than five research studies over the last dozen years to identify what are the most important competencies for a project manager to have success. All of the studies utilized the critical incident method of research and follow-up surveys where outstanding PMs are interviewed to identify what they do that makes them so effective. (for details on the approach and results see: Gadeken, Owen, What the Defense Systems Management College Has Learned From Ten Years of Project Leadership Research, Proceedings of PMI® Research Conference 2000 p 274 – 256).

The research resulted in defining the following eight behaviors of the best project managers:

  1. Are strongly committed to a clear mission
  2. Have a long term and big picture perspective
  3. Are both systematic and innovative thinkers
  4. Find and empower the best people for their teams
  5. Are selective in their involvement in project issues
  6. Focus on external stakeholders
  7. Thrive on relationships and influence
  8. Proactively gather information and insist on results

Note: Italicized competencies differentiate top performers.


To read entire paper (click here)

About the Author

Robert Youker

World Bank (retired)

Robert “Bob” Youker is a prolific writer, speaker, and spokesperson for PM practice around the World. A co-founder of both Project Management Institute, and asapm, the American Society for the Advancement of Project Management, he is a long-time contributor to the practice of project management. In addition to the above founding feats, he was a Director of IPMA from 1977 through 1988, taking the seat formerly occupied by Russ Archibald.  In addition to his years of service to PMI, he participated and presented in many IPMA Conferences from 1974 through the early 2000s. He presented keynotes at several of them, and organized panels and workshops in others. He introduced IPMA into a dozen government agencies and businesses all over the World, and in many cases, connected those agencies and businesses with IPMA leaders.  Bob introduced and popularized innovations to the practice of project management, from his work in Xerox in the 1960s, to his leadership in the first manual project management planning and tracking tools (Planalog President, 1968-1974). He published an early book on the Critical Path Method, Analysis Bar Charting, by John Mulvaney. As of today, that book has sold more than 30,000 copies.  In his work for World Bank, Bob developed training that has benefited thousands of project and program managers, and government officials, mostly in developing countries. He performed that training in over a dozen developing countries around the World over a 30 year period, and continues today, to help developing and developed nations. He was the author and developer of the World Bank’s CD-ROM based project management training kit titled “Managing the Implementation of Development Projects”, still available and widely used today.  In the 1970s, to increase Executive visibility for the fledgling practice of project management, Bob engineered the publishing of a Harvard Business Review collection of articles on the subject. He suggested the collection, but was told there were not enough articles for a special collection. He bought copies of the articles, submitted them, and the Harvard Business Review published one of their most popular reprint series, with a number of classic articles on project management.  Bob Youker has contributed massively to the profession or practice of project management, to asapm, to IPMA, and to society.  He continues to teach several two-week project management courses each year for participants from developing countries at the International Law Institute in Georgetown, Washington, DC, USA.  Bob can be contacted at [email protected].

PMI is a registered trademark of Project Management Institute in the USA and other countries.  asapm is a USA-registered trademark of the American Society for the Advancement of Project Management.