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Traits of a Successful Project

We all want our projects to succeed, and we as project managers work incredibly hard to ensure our projects are successful. Any experienced project manager, however, has been on (or led) projects that were not and I’m sure could share unique reasons as to what contributed to their project failures. In this post, I’m going to share with you the common traits that I’ve observed on projects that were successful and why these traits were so important to the success of the project. I’ll do a deep dive into each of these in future posts but will briefly explain why they are so important to project success.


There is no coincidence that I’ve listed this as first on my list of successful project traits. I’ve said before and will continue to preach that good communications in a project is a key success factor (or better yet, ineffective communications will sink a project faster than anything else). Keeping all stakeholders informed of scope, progress, risks and issues are paramount to project success. It is probably the biggest task (and time-eater) of a project manager to make sure that there are effective communications being delivered.

Engaged Project Stakeholders

Ever work on a project where you never see half of the stakeholders after the kickoff meeting? Getting stakeholders engaged and keeping them engaged is not only the job of the project manager, but also of project sponsorship as well. As an example, an external project management consultant will only have so much influence over key business subject matter experts assigned to a project to ensure that they are participating as expected. The project sponsor needs to ensure that the resources under his/her control are fulfilling expectations as laid out in the project plan and it is the job of the project manager to ensure that project sponsorship is aware of any issues or concerns of disengagement.

Good Scope Management

Scope creep can kill any project. Without a solid scope management plan in place, projects can quickly deteriorate into a perpetual change management cycle. Scope management falls on the project manager to ensure that the project is following the approved scope of project sponsorship however any decisions regarding scope always need to be owned by project sponsorship (hence why we need solid business engagement). There are two major types of scope change that can adversely affect projects if not properly managed – scope addition and feature set change. Scope addition is dangerous for obvious reasons – more scope means more time and resources needed to deliver. Feature set change often means changing how a certain function works which can have upstream and/or downstream impacts on other areas of the project, depending how everything is architected. Regardless of the type of scope change, it needs to be diligently managed and communicated to sponsorship for any decisions and then broadcasted to all stakeholders so that there are completely managed expectations.

Delivering a successful project is not easy however as a project manager, if you keep your finger on the pulse in these three areas you will absolutely increase the odds in your favor of making your projects a success.

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