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How to Avoid the Perception of Failure

Whose version of the truth is truer? When the project team delivers proudly but the sponsor can only frown and shake their head, there’s guaranteed to be a fundamental disconnect about project expectations. As author Susanne Madsen writes in a post for PM Hut, perception is a key factor that determines a project’s success or failure (yes, the “truth” can be subject to revision).

Truth Maker

Where does the PM fit in this ‘arbitration of truth’ between stakeholders and sponsors? According to Madsen, PMs are the ones who set the agenda for both sides, and facilitate tradeoffs in addition to educating stakeholders about what their needs really are. The term for this balancing of opinions is “relative priority,” since each party must agree to shift their expectations relative to the needs and capabilities of others.

Begin with the End

A successful PM knows that every project must begin with the end in mind. Setting expectations will determine how success or failure is measured in the eyes of relevant parties based on shared objectives, parameters, benefits, deadlines, and other qualifications.  No two projects are alike, so be sure to solicit requirements from stakeholders in advance. Madsen elaborates:

Remember, that ultimately the success of your project will be measured by whether your sponsor and stakeholders feel they got the benefits they wanted in a way which they expected. So to avoid the perception of failure, not only do you need to clearly define the objectively stated criteria; you also need to turn any subjective feelings and statements into quantifiable and measurable conditions. Only then do you truly know what is expected of you.

Truth Speaker

It is important to consider, throughout the project lifecycle, the interplay between stated goals and available means. It could be that required resources are in short supply, meaning that you, the project manager, will need to speak to the steering committee. And remember, good deeds deserve attention too! To run a great project involves a little hand clapping once in a while.

Read the full post at:

About Eric Anderson

Eric Anderson is a staff writer for CAI’s Accelerating IT Success. He is an intern at Computer Aid Inc., pursuing his master’s degree in communications at Penn State University.

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