Part 2 Chapter 8

Part 2 Chapter 8

What’s a Successful Project Anyway?

Happy Stakeholders


What’s a successful project? One that hits the deadlines? A project that comes in within the budget? Meets the requirements of the stakeholders? All of the above? These and more?

If you want it in two words, a successful project is ‘happy stakeholders’.

For the avoidance of any doubt, the stakeholders are the people who have a stake in the project. More precisely they’re either individuals or groups of people who are affected by the outcome of the project in some way, either positively or negatively.

Each stakeholder has ‘win-conditions’. These are what each stakeholder would regard as the best possible outcome to the project.

For example, let’s say I’m the boss who’s given the team the impossible deadline. Then my win-condition might be that the team hits the deadline. On the other hand, suppose I’m a team member who’s been working burn-out hours for the last nine months. Maybe my win-condition for this project may be to work a regular 40-hour week, go home and have a life.

So, win-conditions can be different for each different stakeholder, and they can pull the project in different directions.

Our job as project managers is to deliver a combined or composite set of win-conditions that will keep as many of the stakeholders as happy as possible – ideally all stakeholders 100% happy.

The steps towards keeping stakeholders happy are:

  1. Identify who they all are.
  2. Find out what’s going to make them happy i.e. ask them. Don’t assume that you know.
  3. Don’t assume the win-conditions are the same for everybody.
  4. Get it in writing.

How do you do that?

Make a list of all of your stakeholders and write down each of their win-conditions. Get the stakeholders to sign this off.


How Will We Know When We’re Done?


Every successful project ends. There will always be some last-minute tasks that need doing, and then the very last job.

Think of when a new bridge or tunnel or highway is opened. Some senior government figure comes out and cuts a ribbon to open this new piece of infrastructure. This cutting of the ribbon is a symbolic last job on the project. It says that now that the ribbon has been cut, the project to build the infrastructure is over; it’s finished.

Similarly, when a ship is launched. A bottle of champagne is broken on the bow of the ship; the ship slides down the slipway and goes into the water. Hopefully it floats, and again this breaking of the bottle of champagne is a symbolic last job. It tells us that now that the bottle of champagne has been broken, the project to build the ship is over.

Many projects get into trouble because we don’t have a clear view of what constitutes finishing. The result is that, for example, the team believes itself to have finished, but the customer has a different view and other stakeholders may have other views too.

By agreeing with the stakeholders what the last job in the project is, we do away with all of this possible uncertainty and doubt.

We often use the expression ‘get it over the line’. Knowing the last job in our project and agreeing it with all of the stakeholders means that we know exactly where that line is. Once that last job is carried out, the project is over – clearly, objectively, no longer a matter of opinion or interpretation.

So, what do you do? Figure out – in conjunction with your stakeholders – what the last job in your project is. Get the stakeholders to sign that off too.

Notice finally, that the result of all this is that your goal is a box. No clouds here.