7 Cs for Project Success

Paul Naybour

All project managers are concerned about the perceived success of their projects. They want to minimise risk of failure and bring the project in on-time and on-budget. Considering each of these seven Cs for project success will lead to a truly successful outcome being accomplished.
The proliferation of email as the alternative to face to face meetings, or telephone conversations, has its disadvantages as well as advantages. Whilst the written word is more likely to ensure that specific technical details are fully understood, email does not allow for the same level of relationship building and developing trust as verbal communication does. Conversations, whether in person or on the phone, are also vital for detecting potential problems and clarifying the expectations of all parties involved in a project. Regular email communications should never take the place of verbal communication but be an additional tool towards the goal of project success.
Building commitment in any project team at the outset will reap huge benefits during the course of the project and will ultimately lead to a successful conclusion. Projects undertaken without the full commitment of the stakeholders and the whole team are much more likely to fail.  But by agreeing on the work required and the time and people needed to complete it, with realistic deadlines and expectations this will ensure that there is initial commitment that can be maintained throughout the course of the project.
It is surprising how often teams and individuals are assigned project work that they are not committed to. This can be for a number of reasons whether it is work overload or badly defined requirements or unrealistic budgets or deadlines. All, or any, of these factors will result in a lack of commitment from the team or individual. Yet ensuring individuals are committed to their tasks is a major factor in the quality of the work and hence the success of a project so should never be underestimated.

The budget of any project, large or small, should be realistic and include a generous contingency fund. It is impossible to set a realistic budget without knowing the requirements in detail. Yet in practise, the budget is frequently set before the requirements are documented and many budgets have little, or no, contingency. In such cases, the role of the project manager is to match the requirements to the available budget as closely as possible without compromising on the product that is ultimately delivered. Attempting to squeeze the requirements into an unrealistic budget is simply increasing the probability of something going wrong.

Keeping control of the budget and the schedule is vital to successfully completing the project. In practise this means planning the project in detail and then managing all the elements of that plan. Whilst a certain amount of flexibility on the part of the project manager will probably be necessary, that flexibility cannot come at the cost of losing control of the schedule, budget or quality of the final product.
The budget and schedule are, of course, the natural constraints for a project and project managers must discipline themselves and the team members to concentrate on delivering or completing each individual task well. Projects where clear milestones are set are far more likely to reach their goal than those that do not set clear objectives.
Cooperation between teams, departments or even different companies is often necessary for large corporate projects. These relationships may be ones of choice but they may also be ones of necessity. There may be underlying resentments and rivalries between these different groups but cooperation is essential for the success of the project.
Involving members of all groups in the early decision-making process and planning stages will help to build a team-spirit and alleviate any hostility between groups. Aiming to understand the human emotions involved, and not just the human skills, will lead to a better understanding of the different groups. This is a much more effective way of developing cooperation than trying to force groups or teams to work together.
Attitudes to work schedules, quality of work and to senior management vary greatly from culture to culture and even from company to company. In some environments problems will not be reported in the belief that extra hours and effort can resolve the issues. This can often result in a problem not becoming obvious until well into the project schedule. Such attitudes to admitting there is a problem to senior management are difficult to change in some companies and cultures.
So entrenched cultural attitudes must be addressed early on in the project if they are not to contribute to project failure. This is a two-way problem for which there is unlikely to be a quick solution but it can be alleviated by both sides voicing, documenting and managing expectations of each other.
The importance of coaching or training should never be underestimated. Proven training methods of project management can provide tools, tips and techniques to help every project manager achieve their mission of a successful project. The support and guidance available through project management courses can not only help with the day-to-day management and control of a project but also with the human element required to deal with different individuals, teams and cultures. And it will enthuse a project manager to propel the project forward in the right direction.

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