Critical Success Factors For Project Managers (Part 2)

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In Part 1 of the Critical Success Factors for Project Managers (PMs), I covered the first three critical success factor categories (CSFCs) of Global Factors, External Influences, and Internal Influences. Communication served as the dominating theme of the first three CSFCs. Below are activities/factors that relate to the categories of Risk Reduction, Performance, and Cultural Influences. As a reminder, I asked one simple question of my class for each category: What are four or five activities/factors that must go right for the project to be successful?

Risk Reduction

Activities that, if not done, pose a significant risk to project success. Projects lacking proper planning, a solid communication plan, suitable monitoring/controlling mechanisms, and a PM with good people management skills are doomed from the onset. Although these are basic project planning and execution principles, PMs occasionally skip or speed-through some of the tasks associated with planning for these critical activities. Another important activity to avoid risk is to develop a plan for identifying and reporting potential risks. You cannot attempt to avoid or mitigate risks if you do not know what they are in the first place!


Activities associated with an identifiable level of performance that must be realized for a successful project. In terms of performance, the class began with monitoring the triple constraint to complete the project on time, within budget, and within the proposed scope. Other critical performance factors included creating a performance plan, measuring quality against an industry or quality management standard, and tracking awards received (more aligned with managing multiple projects or in program management). As a former ISO 9000auditor, I was glad to hear my students mention the importance of quality. This is especially true for product as opposed to service-based deliverables.

Cultural Influences

Activities required for establishing and maintaining positive relationships between the team, the organization, and the customer or customer’s organization. When considering cultural influences, the students immediately indicated the importance of open communications, feedback, and timely reporting among team members, the PM, customer representatives, and the project sponsor. Other important cultural activities included establishing roles/expectations, developing a team culture that takes advantage of diverse perspectives (if applicable), managing conflict well, and facilitating cross training among team members to take advantage of technical skills.

It seems that both communication and proper planning/monitoring of the project served as the main themes from the remaining CSFCs. This was an interesting class exercise that for the first time (to my knowledge) tied this kind of CSFC analysis to project management. Perhaps such a study would be worthwhile to take to the next level by conducting full interviews of project management professionals (PMPs).

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