Project Management Success and Decision-Making Under Difficult Contexts

Stacy Goff, PMP®, IPMA Level D®

IPMA Vice President of Marketing and Events

asapm President; ProjectExperts President

Colorado, USA


Project success depends on many factors; and, at the same time, little agreement exists about the definitions of success. In this session we discuss the challenges of difficult project contexts, and frameworks for minimizing those challenges. We then weigh the decision-making trade-offs in key factors that contribute to success. And then we see another challenge: What are the impacts of personal behavioral styles, and interpersonal skills? Do they impact success? Do they add or reduce difficulty? Finally, we discuss the differing definitions of success, with a conclusion that they are all correct.

Project Management standards can help in answering these questions, and increasingly, they are all moving in the same direction: From Knowledge to Competence, from Technical knowledge areas to broader understanding of the most important factors for project success. And today, our discipline, with its supporting standards, is embracing difficult contexts by moving from memorized processes to practiced behaviors and competences. Success in difficult contexts results from integration of all these factors, and this session provides the roadmap for that integration.

About IPMA

In this paper and accompanying presentation, we mention IPMA, the International Project Management Association. IPMA is the world’s first project management membership organization, founded in 1965. Our earlier name was INTERNET, long before the name was borrowed for the World Wide Web. IPMA is a federation of national organizations, such as the Mexican Project Engineering Association (AMIP), asapm in the USA, and a half dozen others in the Americas. IPMA’s role-based, competence-oriented certification system assures that different roles have the specific competences needed to improve project and program decision-making, leadership, and overall PM and enterprise success.

Difficult Contexts

What makes a difficult context difficult? The difficulty can be caused by many factors, and both the environment of the project and choices made in completing the project contribute. Let’s begin with several examples of difficult contexts. In the 2006 I participated in the judging of China Construction Project Managers of the Year. Ten finalist Project Managers had completed their papers describing their project challenges and the actions they took on a wide range of projects. My job, together with several other IPMA representatives, was to ask difficult questions, in front of an audience, and to score them based on their answers. This, in itself, was a difficult context for them.


To read entire paper (click here)

Editor’s note:  Second Editions are previously published papers that have continued relevance in today’s project management world, or which were originally published in conference proceedings or in a language other than English.  Original publication acknowledged; authors retain copyright.  This paper was originally presented as a keynote at the Mexican Project Engineering Association (AMIP) Symposium in November, 2011. AMIP is IPMA-Mexico.  It is republished here with the author’s permission.

About the Author

Stacy Goff


Stacy Goff, the PM Per4mance Coach, is Vice President of Marketing & Events for IPMA, the International Project Management Association, and President of asapm, the American Society for the Advancement of Project Management (IPMA-USA). In these roles, Goff presents keynotes and speaks at conferences around the World on topics related to the advancement of project and program management competence, and improved PM performance. During 2011 he presented to dozens of audiences on five continents.

When he is not serving not-for-profit organizations, Goff is owner and President of ProjectExperts, a Program and Project Management consulting, tools and learning company. A Project Management practitioner since 1970 and consultant since 1982, he helps improve enterprise, department, project team or individual pm competence, effectiveness and performance.

An insightful consultant and dynamic speaker, Mr. Goff offers workshops of interest to Executives, Managers, Program and Project Managers, and individual contributors. His Project Management tools and methods are used by government agencies, Enterprises, consultancies and individuals on six continents. By the year 2000, he had exposed over 45,000 people to the World of Project Management. And, he does not just teach project management, he lives it. Email: [email protected]