Approaches to increasing Level 3: “Business” success



Series on Project Success and Failure
Article 5 of 6

By Alan Stretton

Sydney, Australia



This is the fifth article in this 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. It was 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 application areas; and a need to develop much more comprehensive and validated data on causes of project failures.

The two most prominent cause-of-failure groups that emerged from the meagre sampling in the second article were project-initiation-related causes, and project management (PM) operational-related causes, which together made up 70% of all causes of failure identified in the sampling. In view of their prominence, I thought these deserved more detailed examination. This is being undertaken 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 – colloquially described as “doing the project right”. The fourth article (Stretton 2015c) was concerned with Success Level 2: “Project” success – i.e. “doing the right project”, and particularly with its strong linkage with project initiation-related causes of failure.

Taking Cooke-Davies’ 2004 colloquial descriptor of “business” success as “doing the right projects right, time after time”, there are links between this and both the primary cause-of-failure groups. However, if the right projects are not done, the relevance of “doing them right” diminishes. Both linkages are shown in Figure 5-1 (which is a copy of Figure 2-3 in the second article). However, the most dominant link is with project initiation-related causes of failure. This is linked back to the original choices of projects, particularly in a strategic management context, and what might be done to consistently improve the “right” choice of projects.


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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

pmwj33-Apr2015-Stretton-PHOTOAlan 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/.