How do You Measure Your Success as a Project Manager?

This article was originally published in the 19 October 2012 issue of PMI Community Post

We all strive for success. Project managers measure success through a number of different variables that go beyond the usual triple constraints.

A common theme expressed by those discussing this topic on the PMI Career Central LinkedIn Group is meeting stakeholders’ needs and keeping them happy. Personal satisfaction of project managers and how often they are sought by those sponsoring new projects play major roles in these metrics as well.

“Iron Triangle” Not the Final Success Measure

“In my experience I have seen projects that were complete in-time, within budget, and, most importantly, handed off successfully by the project team,” said Muhammad Bilal, PMP, of Karachi, Pakistan, who has been managing software development projects for four years. “But just because they [didn’t meet the] expectations of the users/project owner, doesn’t mean it was all in vain.”

Stakeholder satisfaction does not have to be a nebulous measure. “Rate each stakeholder group's [satisfaction] from one to ten,” suggests Israr Shaikh, PMI-RMP, PMP, of Dubai, United Arab Emirates, who has managed projects for 13 years. “You might have completed the project on scope, on time and within budget, but has your stakeholder derived the expected benefits?”

Discussing traditional time/budget/quality success measures, John Eremic, a Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA-based senior project manager in water and wastewater systems who has 20 years of project management experience, noted that “The reality is that very few project managers are given adequate time and resources for thorough planning, and it is rare when every possible contingency can be accounted for. So I would say another measure of successful project managers is how well they can adapt and guide their projects through changes in scope, delays, lack of resources, etc. — in short, whether they can solve problems to achieve the best result possible.”

Flavia Nobre, who has managed projects for seven years in Brazil, added a motivated team to the success mix. “What really makes a project successful is a mix of the right deliveries, presenting creative solutions, a well-developed scope, a team [that is] motivated and a very satisfied sponsor.”

Other Success Factors

Mónica González, MBA, PMP, of Mendoza, Argentina, who has 20 years of experience said, “To measure the project manager’s success, I also consider key performance indicators related to present and future environmental impacts, and social impacts associated with [not just] projects but also [with their] products and services.”

Beside stakeholder feedback, Pablo Abbdo Bueno, of Brasilia, Brazil, a three-year project management veteran, said, “I like to focus on the ROI and other measuring points, aligned with the strategies of the company.”

Five-year project manager Ahsan Shabbir, PMP, of Houston, Texas, USA, stated that the success of the project manager can only be gauged by the level of trust of stakeholders that a project manager has gained during his or her interaction with them.

Making Success Personal

“Measuring my success as a project manager is personal and reflects the goals and expectations I set for myself professionally,” said Atlanta, Georgia, USA-based Wanda Harris, MBA, PMP, a 14-year IT project manager.

Ms. Harris believes that she is successful when:

  1. She delivers exactly what was promised.
  2. Sponsors and clients request that she be assigned to manage their subsequent projects.
  3. Challenging and complex projects are being initiated and she is the project manager selected to manage them.

“Each represents my desire to excel at project management; and in doing so, I develop meaningful relationships and provide above-board service, which paves the way for overcoming the challenges that can impede one's success as a project manager.”

NK Shrivastava, PMI-RMP, PMI-ACP, PMP, a 20-year project management veteran based in Springfield, Missouri, USA, added that “Success is when people are fighting to get you on their projects, when you become the stakeholders’ and sponsor's first choice to lead a project. They want to rehire you and keep hiring you as a project manager forever.”

Revaz Margania, CAPM, a three-year IT project manager working in the country of Georgia, bridged both trains of thought by saying the success of project managers can be measured both with project success and by the relationships with stakeholders (team, customers and vendors). “Project success itself can be measured by ROI, scope delivered, quality, budget spent and so on. Relationships can be measured by the fact that, in the end, the project manager is perceived as a good guy or [not]. As project management consists mainly of communication, making and leaving an impression is important for a project manager’s success — without it, a project manager could not last.”

Project managers may succeed according to the “Iron Triangle,” but achievement is something much more than meeting those constraints. It’s about personal gains and stakeholder trust, knowing that you can do the job and get it done well.

How do you measure success? Join the ongoing discussion with the PMI Career Central Group on LinkedIn.