Series on Project Success and Failure:  Factors affecting Level 1: “Project Management” success


Article 3 of 6 

By Alan Stretton

Sydney, Australia


This is the third 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 causes of project failures. There was a paucity of data available on these topics, and no agreed criteria for establishing project success/failure. 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 types and project management application areas; and a need to develop much more comprehensive and validated data on causes of project failures.

The sampling in the second article threw up two (of five) groups of failure causes which particularly stood out, namely project initiation-related causes, and project management operational-related causes, which together made up 70% of all causes. I considered this figure too high to ignore, even with the very meagre data available, and therefore decided to examine them in more detail. This will be done in the context of their linkages with the three levels of success identified in the first article.

The first of these success levels was Level 1: “Project management” success – described by Cooke-Davies 2004 as “doing the project right”. The second article of the series portrayed linkages between this level and the two primary cause-of-failure groups as shown in Figure 3-1 below (reproducing Figure 2-1 in that article).

The primary linkage shown is with project management operational-related causes of failure, which is a very obvious and natural link, to be discussed in more detail shortly. However, most types of failure in initiation phases also have consequences for ensuing operational phases (as is broadly indicated by broken lines between the two, and vertical dashed arrows in Figure 3-1), and thence for “project management” success, as indicated by lighter infill and linkage lines. These will also be discussed in more detail shortly.      


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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

141215-pmwj30-new-stretton-PHOTOAlan Stretton, PhD       flag-australia

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/.