What are the success factors for a Project Manager?

What are the best way to measure these factors?

To ask the question in a different way: What does a successful Project Manager look like and how do we measure this?

4 Answers 4

  1. Projects performed on time, on schedule and that deliver what they are supposed to.
  2. Teams that deliver the work, are not burnt out and that can create innovative solutions.
  3. Consistently well managed expectations.
  • How do you measure these in a concrete manner? What analytical data could back this up?
    – jmort253
    Commented Feb 14, 2011 at 5:18
  • Think about how various stakeholders will view your accomplishments. Higher management may expect you to deliver under budget, even if it means making your team work overtime
    – Jakob Buis
    Commented Feb 14, 2011 at 7:34
  • Success is generally measured using hard data. How do you determine if workers are burned out? How can you measure if expectations are well managed? Executive managers want to see raw data in the form of numbers, graphs, charts. How is this measured?
    – jmort253
    Commented Feb 16, 2011 at 4:47
  • @jmort253 -project performance is measurable by comparing est. completion to actual and est. budget to actual. You can also used earned value metrics. No. 2 can be measured in turnover, absenteeism, job satisfaction surveys and if there is a trend in reduced costs/increased customer satisfaction for each project. No. 3-no. of mtngs needed to realign expectations, scores on post project satisfaction surveys, sleepless nights by the pm out of fear of the boss blowing up at them. Commented Feb 16, 2011 at 20:59
  • @Jakob -true, your management might want the project delivered under budget at the expense of your team. But longer term, if this is always happening there is either poor communication on budgeting, unrealistic expectations by management, a poor pm or a disfunctional organization that doesn't care about the well-being of its personnel over the longer term. Commented Feb 16, 2011 at 21:02

The same metrics used to measure the success of the project can be used to measure the success of the project manager.

For instance, if we're talking about online banking software, a measure of success could be based on the increased retention of banking customers who use online banking. If we're talking about lead management software, then the increased conversion rates of the organization using the software could be used as a metric.

In other fields, such as construction management, the total revenue generated by building new office space could contribute to the success of the project manager responsible for building and maintaining said office space.

With that said, these are all factors measured over time. One can't measure this progress on a day to day basis in most cases. In order to be effective, the metric must be measured over time, either monthly, quarterly, semi-annually, annually, or over a much longer time period. This is largely dependent on the type of project, duration of the project, and the criteria used to measure the success of the project.

One of the best ways to measure these success factors is by documenting them over time in a spreadsheet. You can then watch and monitor changes in how things are going. For instance, if the success of the project manager is based on average project revenue over a monthly period, then changes up or down over time can possibly measure how well things are going and can even possibly forecast future performance, assuming no adjustments are made.


Kieran, this is a hard one. Great question.

I believe the success factors of a PM are:

  • Caring
  • Communication
  • Creativity

These are key success factors, traits that will guarantee a good outcome even if the project is not successful. This by no mean signifies that a PM is able to miss the main objective of the project, that falls under not caring.

If you only measure your people with single dimension factors, you end up having a bunch of people that will get to the goal no matter the consequences. So that you will have a visual, Walmart on Black Friday, you see a lot of people squeezing to get in, and pushing other people to get to their goals. These people pushing others, don't care about the others.

In our line of work, we need to make sure that our next project is as successful as the one before. So If a PM gets to its objective, but he underperformed in the 3 key success factors above, I am sure his individuality will be ok, but I am not so sure about the team perspective of this individual.

  • How do you measure these? Serious executive level managers want to see concrete data. My team uses spreadsheets with concrete data recorded over time to measure success of the PM. How does one measure subjective adjectives such as caring and communication? Is a PM's success measured by the total number of emails sent in a month? Is it measured based on the amount of "I understand how you feel" statements he/she makes? How is this measured? I wouldn't want to work for managers who judged my peformance based on their feelings and emotions; instead, measure using hard, factual data.
    – jmort253
    Commented Feb 16, 2011 at 4:49
  • I think you are taking some of these things too literal. My point is, Caring could be measured in many ways, and for each project it could be different. The same with communication, an important trait that I see with my PMs is the adaptation of how the client wants to communicate. The bottom line is, you could not have a good PM if he does not have those 3 things. Now, that does not mean, that he will not be measured against factual data. Of course he/she will have to make sure that projects' objectives are achieved.
    – Geo
    Commented Feb 16, 2011 at 13:02
  • Can you give an example of a situation where a project manager was measured based on his/her level of empathy? Do you have any references to support this that you can include in your answer? I've never had a review where this came up. Maybe interpretation of my communication ability, but really when it comes down to it, if the PM gets the job done, none of that stuff really matters IMHO.
    – jmort253
    Commented Feb 17, 2011 at 7:27
  • I really appreciate this discussion. I added a few notes in my answers. I hope this makes it easy to understand.
    – Geo
    Commented Feb 17, 2011 at 13:05

A Project Manager is successful when his/her project achieves its objectives. That's it.

  • This is the best answer I've seen here so far. PM's job is to achieve results. +1
    – jmort253
    Commented Feb 16, 2011 at 4:52
  • I would add some caveats to that... In order to hit objectives (timelines, cost, etc); project managers or team members may take shortcuts that introduce technical debt (that must be made up on future iterations), may death-march team members into burnout, or may damage relationships with a "just do it" approach. While they may achieve the stated objectives for a given project, the steamroller project manager may cause harm to an organization or product as a whole.
    – Sean Earp
    Commented Mar 28, 2011 at 22:49

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