Public Project Success


Let’s talk about public projects!


By Stanisław Gasik

Warsaw, Poland


It could be argued that all the literature and scholarly work on project management primarily focuses on one question: how to increase the likelihood of its success? This goal is attained, for instance, by enhancing scheduling, exploring ways to establish PMOs, involving stakeholders in projects, and implementing risk management methods—negative ones to decrease the chances of project failure or positive ones to amplify the scope of its success.

Various models exist for determining project success (e.g., Stretton, 2023; Volden, 2018; Baccarini, 1999; Dalcher, 2014; Shenhar, Dvir, 2007; Turner et al., 2010). Discussions about project success criteria often stem from a perspective rooted in the private sector. For instance, Lechler (2010) highlights that the rise of competition in NPD alters success benchmarks throughout a project’s duration. However, in public sector projects, competition is usually considerably less prevalent, if present at all. Across most countries in fields like infrastructure development, education, or welfare services, competition tends to be minimal or non-existent.

In this article, we will look at evaluating the success of public projects and what distinguishes them from success criteria for projects in other sectors.

Value and business success

The idea of project success hinges on the concept of value. Essentially, a project can be deemed successful if it contributes to creating some form of value. For instance, the construction of a new mine is considered successful if it not only provides adequate raw materials but also manages costs more efficiently compared to purchasing materials from elsewhere. Similarly, the introduction of a new law aimed at combating crime is seen as successful if it leads to a decrease in crime rates, thereby enhancing citizens’ sense of security. In a public institution, implementing a new computer system is regarded as a success if it reduces the time taken to serve the public (e.g., issuing passports or other documents) and minimizes errors in decision-making. Likewise, introducing a new car model is considered successful if its sales generate profits for the manufacturer. And implementing a new method to prevent a specific disease is successful if it leads to a reduction in the number of cases of that disease.

A criterion used to evaluate numerous public projects is the satisfaction level of the citizens using the project’s outputs. A public project’s success is gauged by the satisfaction of the individuals for whom the project was designed. Conversely, even if a project’s product is functional, it can be considered a failure if its users are dissatisfied. In the private sector, satisfaction level serves as an indirect criterion as it impacts the project owner’s profitability. However, in the public sector, user satisfaction stands as one of the paramount values. But it is also important to note that many public projects don’t create products for direct use by citizens—for instance, military projects or initiatives aimed at restructuring public institutions – hence citizens’ satisfaction may not be treated as the final and only criterion for all public projects.

If a project’s product delivers value, we say that the project achieved business success. But in assessing business success, two points should be noted.


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Editor’s note: This article series is related to the management of public programs and projects, those organized, financed and managed by governments and public officials.  The author, Dr. Stanisław Gasik, is the author of the book “Projects, Government, and Public Policy”, recently published by CRC Press / Taylor and Francis Group.  That book and these articles are based on Dr. Gasik’s research into governmental project management around the world over the last decade.  Stanisław is well-known and respected by PMWJ editors; we welcome and support his efforts to share knowledge that can help governments worldwide achieve their most important initiatives.

How to cite this paper: Gasik, S. (2024). Public project success, Let’s talk about public projects, series article, PM World Journal, Volume XIII, Issue I, January. Available online at https://pmworldlibrary.net/wp-content/uploads/2024/01/pmwj137-Jan2024-Gasik-Public-project-success.pdf

 About the Author

Stanisław Gasik, PhD, PMP

Warsaw, Poland


Dr. Stanisław Gasik, PMP is a project management expert. He graduated from the University of Warsaw, Poland, with M. Sc. in mathematics and Ph. D. in organization sciences (with a specialty in project management). Stanisław has over 30 years of experience in project management, consulting, teaching, and implementing PM organizational solutions. His professional and research interests include project knowledge management, portfolio management, and project management maturity. He is the author of the only holistic model of project knowledge management spanning from the individual to the global level.

Since 2013, his main professional focus has been on public projects. He was an expert in project management at the Governmental Accountability Office, an institution of the US Congress. He is the author of “Projects, Government, and Public Policy,” a book that systematizes knowledge about government activities in the area of project management.

He was a significant contributor to PMI’s PMBOK® Guide and PMI Standard for Program Management and contributed to other PMI standards. He has lectured at global PMI and IPMA congresses and other international conferences.

His web page is www.gpm3.eu.

To view other works by Dr. Gasik, please visit his author showcase in the PM World Library at https://pmworldlibrary.net/authors/stanislaw-gasik-phd-pmp/