The Quest for Project Success: A Journey to Achieve the Extraordinary
Photo by Austin Schmid / Unsplash

The Quest for Project Success: A Journey to Achieve the Extraordinary

The concept of project success is a subjective term, as it can be perceived in various ways. A project could be considered as a political success, despite being a physical failure, as exemplified by the Aswan Dam. Therefore, the success of a project depends on the perspective from which it is viewed. However, certain criteria can be used to gauge the success of a project. These criteria are as follows:

• The project should be completed on schedule and within budget.

• The final product of the project should be used.

• The project team's performance should be evaluated.

• Issues should be addressed promptly as they arise.

• The management should be kept informed about the project.

• Conflicts or misunderstandings should be identified and resolved.

In general, most projects are a mix of failure and success, meaning that some things work while others do not. The key ingredient of success or failure is not short-term outcomes but what happens in the longer term.

To analyze a project's success, it is essential to review it from various viewpoints. These viewpoints include the end-users of the final product, operations management and staff, project manager and team, organizational management, tools and methods, and other projects.

To conduct a successful review, the following steps should be taken:

• Build a timeline of the project in terms of milestones and key events to show key decisions, movement of people in and out of the project, and budget approvals or rejections.

• Define clear objectives and issues that need to be addressed and how the results will be used to assure people that this is not a witch hunt.

• Develop a list of tentative findings in relation to major and minor events.

• Develop a set of preliminary recommendations.

• State the findings in an objective way.

• Build a list of actions to be taken.

It is always advisable to include the project team in the review process, as they can provide feedback on the impact of recommended changes on the project outcomes.


Projects are a critical component of any organization's success, and project management is a discipline that has been studied and refined over many years. Many project management texts and training programs suggest that following specific guidelines for defining, planning, and implementing a project will lead to success. However, classic project management theory fails to recognize that some projects may not succeed, no matter how well-defined, planned, and implemented they are. Furthermore, it overlooks several crucial elements that are essential for achieving success.

Derek Lidlow, the founder of Lidlow Technologies, has proposed a new theory for maximizing project success: the Duck Alignment Theory. According to Lidlow, just as ducklings align themselves to their mother in a logical way in order to learn how to swim, there is a logical sequence of actions that contribute to the maximization of project success factors. Lidlow's project management teams have concluded that this theory can be applied to projects of all sizes and types, as it recognizes that the essence of managing a project successfully lies in creating the right conditions for the desired change.

The Duck Alignment Theory consists of five "ducks," or key elements, that must be aligned for a project to succeed. These are comprehension, motivation, skills, resources, and communication. Comprehension refers to ensuring that all members of the team have an identical understanding of the project mission and objectives. Motivation involves ensuring that all members of the project feel motivated to achieve the team objective. Skills refer to ensuring that team members possess all necessary skills to accomplish their assigned task. Resources involve ensuring that the necessary resources are allocated to the project team before the project begins. Finally, communication involves ensuring that all people affected by the project understand its importance.

It is important to note that while Duck Alignment Theory actions establish the conditions for the desired change, they cannot guarantee success in competitive situations or create what does not exist. Instead, the theory maximizes the chances of success under a wide variety of conditions. It is also worth noting that the Duck Alignment Theory does not require the spending of money, diverting resources, or soothing fragile egos. However, it does require a commitment to the process, as there are no shortcuts. Time must be spent in ensuring that the ducks are properly lined up before any action is taken.

In conclusion, running an organization in which projects routinely succeed is far easier than running an organization that expects failure. The Duck Alignment Theory is a powerful tool for maximizing the chances of project success, and the effort required to implement it is a small price to pay relative to the consistently excellent returns on the investment.