Approaches to increasing Level 2: “Project” success


Series on Project Success and Failure

Article 4 of 6

By Alan Stretton

Sydney, Australia


This is the fourth article of a series on project successes and failures. The first two articles (Stretton 2014j, 2015a) looked at levels and criteria for project successes/ failures, at success/ failure rates, and at causes of project failures. There was a paucity of data available on these topics, and no agreed criteria for establishing project successes/failures. These articles concluded that there was an evident need to establish and agree on success and failure criteria for projects; to develop comprehensive success/failure data covering all significant project management types and application areas; and to develop much more comprehensive and validated data on causes of project failures.

The two most prominent cause-of-failure groups were project-initiation-related causes, and project management (PM) operational-related causes, which together comprised 70% of all causes of failure found. Their prominence invited further investigation, which is being done by linking them with the three success levels for projects introduced in the first article.

The third article (Stretton 2015b) discussed links between both cause-of-failure groups with Success Level 1: “Project management” success – “doing the project right”. It also discussed strong connections between Level 1 and Success Level 2: “Project” success – i.e. “doing the right project”. This article extends discussions of the latter. (Success Level 3: “Business” success, will be discussed in the fifth article).

By far the strongest linkage with Level 2 success comes from project initiation-related causes of failure, for the rather simple reason that failure to do the right project invariably derives from certain types of failure in project initiation phases.

This linkage is illustrated in Figure 4-1, which is a copy of Figure 2-2 from the second paper of this series

The third article of the series began developing the case for project managers to be fully involved in project initiation activities. This case is further developed below, together with approaches to increasing such involvement in the “project” success context.


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Editor’s note: This series of articles on project successes and failures is by Alan Stretton, PhD (Hon), Life Fellow of AIPM (Australia), a pioneer in the field of professional project management and one of the most widely recognized voices in the practice of program and project management.   Long retired, Alan is still accepting some of the most challenging research and writing assignments; he is a frequent contributor to the PM World Journal. See his author profile below.

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 140 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/.