Successful project management

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The following is my examination of what a culture for successful project management looks like. Organisations can create a culture that promotes project success through a process of employee role clarification, training and empowerment.

Larson and Gray, in their seminal book on project management, defined ten cultural traits to be optimised for successful project implementation. (Larson and Gray 2014)

An organisation with a culture where,

1)   Employees strongly identify with the organisation

2)   There is a high importance on teamwork

3)   There is a positive degree of focus on the individual

4)   Management have a focus on team collaboration

5)   There is a high degree of personal autonomy amongst employees

6)   The organisation is willing to take risks.

7)   There are results-based reward criteria for employees

8)   The organisation is prepared to accept conflict

9)   Means versus end positioning is balanced.

10) The organisation conducts external environmental scans.

An organisation can begin the process of cultural change to support the above characteristics by

  • Clarifying job roles
  • Providing the necessary training.
  • Empowering employees

(Imai 1997)  

The following is an exploration of each of these three enablers.         

Job Clarification.

Larson and Gray highlight the power of a responsibility matrix, RM, for projects. An RM document clearly defines accountability, decision making and communication paths for everyone involved in a project.

Clearly defining roles and responsibilities at the start of a project helps define what is expected of people and where the boundaries of their and other’s job roles lie.

Applying this rigidly at the start of a project can help support its success. Employees need to understand their roles and responsibilities on projects and tasks fully.


Providing employees with better training not only gives them the skills to perform tasks but also creates motivation amongst employees to perform better due to increased expectancy of them.

Role clarification is closely linked with training. Imai (1997, p. 230) identifies training and education of supervisors and personnel as being essential to aid them to comprehend redefined roles and responsibilities better.

Providing additional relevant and useful training for employees is very motivational; it activates one of the core drives for motivation, the wish to understand and make a meaningful impact. (Nohria, Groysberg and Lee 2008).

Providing appropriate training to employees helps them better understand their role within a project and how they contribute to its success.

Training is very encouraging for employees and drives their curiosity and determination to make a positive contribution. It gives them additional skills and helps them better understand their role, creating better-motivated employees who have a clear picture of their role in a project.

Organisations need to engage in meaningful training plans with employees to increase their skills and levels of commitment.

Employee Empowerment.

As job roles are defined, and clarified, training on empowerment needs to be delivered. Employees need to be encouraged to take responsibility for driving improvements and identifying problems and solutions.

Autonomy for people means having adequate control over things that are significant to them and applying their influence to change things constructively. (Gaffney 2011, pp. 293-294)

Organisations need to give employees a sense of ownership for their work, a sense of autonomy to drive the culture needed to support project success.

Empowered employees have the authority and obligation to enhance their and their team’s contributions. (Imai, 1997, p. 231). A feeling of empowerment amongst employees stimulates them to take personal responsibility for project success.

When employees feel more empowered, their beliefs in what they can achieve are increased. (Conger and Kanungo 1988) . This feeling of empowerment makes employees feel more confident in their abilities.

This type of confidence-building and having employees take responsibility for driving improvements, identifying and solving problems is key to driving project success. Organisations need to train their employees on empowerment and encourage it amongst them.

Organisations can create a culture that promotes project success through a process of employee role clarification, training and empowerment.


Conger, J.A. and Kanungo, R.N. 1988. The empowerment process: Integrating theory and practice. Academy of Management Review, 13(3), pp.471-482.

Gaffney, M. 2011. Flourishing (Kindle Edition.). Dublin: Penguin Books Ltd.

Imai, M. 1997. Gemba Kaizen. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Larson, E.W. and Gray, C.F. 2014. Project management: the managerial process. International student edition. ed. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill Education.

Nohria, N., Groysberg, B. and Lee, L. 2008. Employee motivation. Harvard Business Review, 86(7), pp.78-84.

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