Organization Culture Influences Project Success

Project SuccessIt should come as no shock to learn that some organizations are better than others at managing projects. There are probably no organizations that have a 100% success rate, and hopefully none have a 0% success rate. However, some organizations definitely perform at a higher level than others.

There are a number of organizational factors that influence your ability to deliver projects successfully. Your organization’s culture has a lot to do with the success rate of your projects.

The term “culture” generally means “how we do things around here.” Imagine someone asked you how successfully your organization delivers projects. If you say “we’re pretty poor at delivering projects,” you are voicing a perception of one aspect of your culture.

There are a number of areas where culture comes into play on projects.

Process orientation

Many organizations have good processes in place, and people generally follow them. This is perhaps the biggest single factor in overall project success. If your organization follows a good, scalable project management process, you are more likely to be consistently successful on your projects. This means that the entire project team generally knows how to create and follow a workplan and can use standard processes to effectively handle risk, scope change and issues.


Many organizations have processes in place, but no one follows them. This highlights a problem with management governance. In simplistic terms, governance is the management function having to do with making sure people do what they are supposed to do. Typically, if your management structure is engaged and interested in projects, and if they make sure that your project management process is followed, you will tend to be more successful. If every project manager is on his or her own and management support is haphazard, then you will tend to be unsuccessful.


Some organizations do a poor job of training project managers. Typically, these types of organizations do a poor job of training in general. If project managers generally do not have the right skills (other than from the school of hard knocks) you will not be successful.

Roles and responsibilities

In successful organizations, people typically know the role they play on projects and what is expected of them. This includes active sponsors, interested clients and engaged management stakeholders. The sponsor, for instance, needs to perform a quality assurance role, as well as be the project champion in his or her organization. If your organization starts projects and leaves the project manager in a leadership vacuum, you are not going to be consistently successful.

Culture plays perhaps the biggest role in whether your organization is successful executing projects. If your organization has difficulty completing projects successfully, you cannot just blame the project managers. They are only toiling within a culture that is not supportive of their efforts. Managers, including the head of the organization, need to step up and evaluate the project culture. Until the culture changes, project managers will consistently struggle to be successful.