A perspective on project success levels

in an organisational strategic management context



By Alan Stretton, PhD (Hon)

Sydney, Australia



In an article in last month’s issue of this journal (Stretton 2019a) I focused on the other strategic work component of organisational strategic initiatives, which, in addition to projects, is normally required to help organisations achieve their strategic objectives.

That article discussed differing views on how management of other strategic work relates to the project management (PM) component, and to organisational strategic management at large. It was noted that these three are highly intertwined, which led to a conclusion that a broader study of managerial responsibility for the various entities of the organisational strategic management framework might help sort out some of the grey areas of such responsibilities.

I also signalled an intention to address this topic in a later issue of this journal, and still propose to do so. However, in this article I would like to present a further perspective on the management of the project component of organisational strategic initiatives, which hopefully might help in future discussions of the latter topic.

In some recent articles in this journal (e.g. Stretton 2018a, 2018k), I have been discussing causes of so-called “project” failure in the context of a basic organisational strategic management framework, and found that around half the causes of were not related directly to projects – which, in itself, somewhat complicates an appreciation of intertwined management issues in the strategic context.

In this article I will be adding discussions of “project” success/failure in the context of three levels of “project success” criteria proposed by Cooke-Davies 2004, which I will be relating to the same basic strategic framework. The criteria attached to these three levels are strongly management-related, and hopefully may give further insights into sorting out management issues in organisational strategic management, particularly as they relate to component projects.


In a very substantial discussion of the nature of project success, Cooke-Davies 2004 distinguished between three levels of success criteria, as follows.

L1: Project management success: Was the project done right?

L2: Project success: Was the right project done?

L3: Consistent project success: Were the right projects done right, time after time?

Although it has a strong colloquial element, I like the descriptor “right”, because it can be applied to a wide variety of contexts, but still convey a meaning which is readily interpretable for any particular context. Some other writers have also been using this descriptor – for example Bucero 2018, with his exhortations to

  • Do the right projects and programs!
  • Do the projects and programs right!

As indicated in the Introduction, in two recent issues of this journal (Stretton 2018a, 2018k) I have discussed causes of so-called “project” failures in the context of an organisational strategic management framework. These articles found that project management could be held accountable for no more than about one half of all such failures. The remaining “project” failures were actually failures in other areas of the strategic management framework, for which non-project people or groups were responsible.

Relating this back to Cooke-Davies levels of success, it can be seen that he uses the descriptor “project” in the title of each level. This might be interpreted as implying that project management has direct responsibilities for successes and failures at each level. However, in the light of the above findings, this would appear to be a doubtful interpretation. We will investigate this further by relating Cooke-Davies’ three levels of project success to the organisational strategic management framework used in that article, and see what emerges.

Before doing this, we look at how I have recently been depicting how projects relate to an organisational strategic management framework, via a basic project life-cycle.


To read entire article, click here


How to cite this paper: Stretton, A. (2019). A perspective on project success levels in an organisational strategic management context, PM World Journal, Volume VIII, Issue II (February).  Available online at https://pmworldjournal.net/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/pmwj79-Feb2019-Stretton-perspective-on-project-success-levels-featured-paper.pdf


About the Author

Alan Stretton, PhD      

Faculty Corps, University of Management
and Technology, Arlington, VA (USA)
Life Fellow, AIPM (Australia)


Alan Stretton
is one of the pioneers of modern project management.  He is currently a member of the Faculty Corps for the University of Management & Technology (UMT), USA.  In 2006 he retired from a position as Adjunct Professor of Project Management in the Faculty of Design, Architecture and Building at the University of Technology, Sydney (UTS), Australia, which he joined in 1988 to develop and deliver a Master of Project Management program.   Prior to joining UTS, Mr. Stretton worked in the building and construction industries in Australia, New Zealand and the USA for some 38 years, which included the project management of construction, R&D, introduction of information and control systems, internal management education programs and organizational change projects.  He has degrees in Civil Engineering (BE, Tasmania) and Mathematics (MA, Oxford), and an honorary PhD in strategy, programme and project management (ESC, Lille, France).  Alan was Chairman of the Standards (PMBOK) Committee of the Project Management Institute (PMI®) from late 1989 to early 1992.  He held a similar position with the Australian Institute of Project Management (AIPM), and was elected a Life Fellow of AIPM in 1996.  He was a member of the Core Working Group in the development of the Australian National Competency Standards for Project Management.  He has published over 200 professional articles and papers.  Alan can be contacted at [email protected].

To see more works by Alan Stretton, visit his author showcase in the PM World Library at http://pmworldlibrary.net/authors/alan-stretton/.