Recently I started discussion at PMStudent on relation between project manager success and project success. Undisciplined client, lack of control over project and preservation of team were mentioned as reasons to reconsider PM success despite project failure.
There was however one aspect I’ve missed. Project can be delivered on time, on budget and on scope and still bring no benefit whatsoever. How? What you achieve in project depends on its goals. If goals are crappy project will hardly bring any value. It will be a failure.
The question is: who is responsible for crappy project goals?
It isn’t PM who defines project goals and key requirements. Stakeholders do. Does it mean PM shouldn’t actually care what these goals are? Well, not quite. If stakeholders define contradictory goals it’s PM’s job to make the call. If goals are plain stupid or at least look so someone should start discussion about them and PM is a good candidate here.
These are however only the most extreme cases. Most of the time when project fails it is because general strategy was wrong or business goals missed the market or someone went way too optimistic about some results. It is not because goals were simply stupid or no one put any thought on them. Is it still PM’s job to verify that?
Most of the time it is not. I won’t go definite about this one because across different organizations role of project manager differs much. In smaller companies project manager is often a bit of product manager and/or a business owner. Then it becomes completely different story. But coming back to typical situation, project managers usually don’t have full business perspective. They don’t invent business goals – they follow goals invented by stakeholders.
Now, if these goals appear to be rather crappy and project doesn’t yield expected results whose fault is that? I’d say I’d discuss the problem with guys who set them, not with those who worked their butts off to finish on time. You wanted this revolutionary project no one really knows what to use for so here it is. Don’t blame me when it appeared a bit too revolutionary for users.
When perfectly delivered project fails to produce any valuable outcome it isn’t project management fail. You should rather point your fingers at business owners or product managers.