The magic formula for project success?

Will my project successful?

How many projects teams have you been a part of?

Now let’s count up how many of those were projects were a successes?  Is your tally 100%? (If it is, congrats!)

The more projects you play a part in, the more likely it is that you would have been part of a project that might not have been a success.  It might have missed its planned dates or not delivered on one of its core objectives.  Or even worse, it might not of set objectives to start with!

Regardless of which project methodology (Agile, Waterfall, Prince2, etc) you subscribe to – is the magic formula that drives success?


The ‘magic’ formula

I am going to share the secret formula with you – but you have to promise to use it wisely!

S = cm ( cl + de)

Ok, ok – so I might be joking around a bit there, but let me put it another way.  Success = communication, clarity & definition.


Success = communication, clarity & definition


Before you take another step this is where you should make sure the basics are in place and for me that revolves around ‘communication‘.  I will definitely agree that it is important throughout a project’s life-cycle, but the start of a project is when it’s the most critical, yet this is when its most overlooked!

Have you defined who you need to communicate with?  There will be key stakeholders, subject matter experts (SMEs) and end-users.  Depending on the project, they might be the same people.  How are you going to make sure people are involved at the right time?

What frequency will the project team communicate to the various groups of stakeholders, SMEs?  Set expectations early on and adjust accordingly.

The key is to ensure the project team and the business are ultimately aware of what they need to be, and when they need to be to make any relevant decisions.


Clarity & definition:

This is the fun part for a lot of projects! And more often than not it’s because the project team is a group of people who have never worked together before.  Which can add additional challenges and potential set-backs on top of trying to deliver the project.

As a team develops it goes through various stages of development (see here for the theory).  Generally the most painful part is the ‘storming’ stage, as this is where people in the group may start to step on the toes of others within the team.

This is where clarity and definition play such a pivotal part within the project.  By providing as much clarity and definition, the aim here is to fast track the project team through the forming and storming stages of development as soon as possible.

What are some key ways of doing this?  The type of things I would consider going into a project would include:

What are the objectives and goals of the project?  How do you know when the project is finished?  Believe me some projects aren’t so clear cut as to when the finish line has been crossed!

Can you define what success looks like at the end of the project?  It is great getting to the finish line, but how will you and the team know what success looks like?

Does everyone in the project team know what role they will play within the project?  Having clear roles/responsibilities can help reduce future issues and help the team come together faster.

Is everyone talking the same ‘language’?  I don’t just mean English/Spanish/Mandarin… But what about common jargon/terminology used within the business?  This tends to be a big area where a lot of assumptions are made, and then cause major issues when delivering of the project.  You might be all talking about a football, but what kind of football – soccer, rugby union, rugby league…  Don’t make assumptions!

Key deliverables versus wish list items  – defining this early on will help with stakeholder management and to prevent project ‘scope creep’.

Get the team involved…

You might not be able to answer all of these by yourself, so what better way to get the team involved early on?


Share your experiences.

There are a lot of moving pieces when it comes to project management.  But the most successful projects I have been involved in have really focussed on getting the small things right early on and building on that foundation.

So for me, the magic formula is the basics done well…  Success = communication, clarity & definition 🙂

Do you have any project success stories to share?  Or maybe some less successful ones, where you have some lessons you learned from?

Adam Gill

Hi, Adam here! I am a Trailhead Ranger and also 6x certified. I have been working with Salesforce since 2007, across a wide variety of CRM projects and orgs (both greenfield and legacy). I love travelling and fun fact, I had my scuba diving license before my driving license!

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