Achieving Successful Projects: Commitment to Project Success

Duncan Ross Russell
The vision of the Association for Project Management (APM) is ‘A world in which all projects succeed with project management as a life skill for all’, but how do we ensure that our projects succeed? In this second article of the series reviewing the APM’s five key project success factors, I discuss the commitment to project success.

Commitment to Project Success

You may be surprised to discover that many organisations embark on a project without the necessary commitment to project success. Large organisations have found that having too many projects running dilutes the commitment to project success. By halting all but the highest priority projects, they are able to focus on supporting the successful delivery of the projects that really matter, moving onto others at a later time, increasing the proportion of successful projects and the return on investment.

What is a commitment to project success?

A commitment to success means:

  • Believing in the project and the benefits it is to deliver;
  • Taking an interest in the progress of a project;
  • Making the business’ resources available to the project team to achieve success.

How do we create and maintain a commitment to success?

  • Commitment to the objectives. The organisation needs to be committed to achieving the stated objectives. For example, if a business has made a significant commercial commitment into building a new facility in which they plan to introduce agile working, a business that is committed to their objectives will see the cultural change dynamics of their project as being as important as the physical building and will ensure that the budget to manage this is provided.
  • Commitment to the Project Team. The organisation needs to be committed to the project team. For example, where the project team has members taken from the 'business as usual' organisation, the business will show commitment by ensuring those individuals are given the time they need to meet their project commitments.  Or, where external parties are appointed, the organisation will show commitment through paying serious attention to the quality of the team appointed and not just the price.
  • Commitment to the Project. The organisation needs to be committed to the project. The project team will need the support and engagement of senior management, outside of the project team, to engage in decision-making. For example, when faced with a decision between two project options - one that will benefit one objective and the other another objective - which option is best? Lower level decisions can be delegated to the project team, but every project will have decisions to make that will fundamentally affect the look and feel of the results. Successful projects engage the appropriate level of organisational leadership in making these decisions. A commitment to the project will also recognise that the role of the project board is to support the team in delivering success.  A board should be primarily focused on how the project is going to meet the objectives and should recognise that completion on time and within budget are important, but secondary to meeting the objectives.
  • Project Sponsors. Good sponsors are key to achieving a commitment to project success as they sit outside the team, creating a bridge back into the wider organisation in order to facilitate this commitment. The project sponsor is there to be a friendly arm around the shoulder of the team, ask how it is going and how they can help, and then deliver the support needed to oil the wheels of success.

Board approval of a stage gate business case is only the start of a commitment to project success.  An organisation that believes in all its projects succeeding will actively commit to the project objectives and the project team, supporting project delivery through effective sponsorship.

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