Project success vs. project management performance

“Project success” has 2 perspectives: 

  • the perspective of the process, i.e. delivering efficient outputs; typically called project management performance or project efficiency.
  • the perspective of the result, i.e. delivering beneficial outcomes; typically called project performance (sometimes just project success) [1, 2].

The established (project) management school, and even practice, puts more priority on processes, rather than on results. We measure screens, workflows, processes, APIs, requests, forms, sometimes even lines of code (remember the beautiful KLOC paradox). Yes, some of these are reasonable proxies for measuring results. But even if they can be measured, they are still proxies.

Interestingly, this is not the case for engineering; it is mostly the management view. Quality management is famous for example for its obsession for documenting and measuring processes. Continuous improvement of processes becomes sometimes a religion, with fanatics following blindly 7-sigma, Deming, or Kanban.

Engineering and IT are more focused on the end-product, to its benefits to the organization and to the stakeholders, rather than on measuring methods and processes [3].

Managers fear complexity, so they try to simplify and reduce it.
But engineers need complexity in their products, so they find tools to manage it [4].

This is why the mission of the engineering manager is not to simplify technology at all cost; but to design and build successful, useful products. Even if the products are complex.

[1] Daniel, P. A., & Daniel, C. (2018). Complexity, uncertainty and mental models: From a paradigm of regulation to a paradigm of emergence in project management. International Journal of Project Management, 36, 184–197.

[2] Pinto, J. K., & Winch, G. (2016). The unsettling of “settled science:” The past and future of the management of projects. International Journal of Project Management, 34, 237–245.

[3] Locatelli, G., Mancini, M., & Romano, E. (2014). Systems Engineering to improve the governance in complex project environments. International Journal of Project Management, 32, 1395–1410.

[4] Morcov, S., Pintelon, L., & Kusters, R. J. (2021). A Framework for IT Project Complexity Management. IADIS IS 2021 : 14th IADIS International Conference Information Systems (pp. 61-68).