A contemporary and hands-on view on project management - ICN Business School

A contemporary and hands-on view on project management

Investors are increasingly being asked to invest in projects of all sizes. Companies like Apple base their actions on projects. Bankers decide to finance projects without always knowing what to expect. However, the financial aspects of the projects are insufficient to make an informed decision. Therefore, it is justified to carry out research on various axes guiding decision-making in companies.

To this end, Braun and Mesly (2019) interviewed a significant number of managers in recent years in Canada and France. Most interviews lasted between 45 and 60 minutes. In addition, approximately 80% of project managers were met at least twice, 53% three times and 11% four or more times.


The five guiding principles of project management

For Braun and Mesly (2019), project managers agree on five guiding principles:

  • Address problems as early as possible in the project development process, as they tend to get worse;
  • Understand the motivations for decisions and actions of key stakeholders;
  • Assess project feasibility issues such as opportunities, complexity and risks;
  • Address dependencies, as stronger dependencies between project tasks and stakeholders make them more likely to fail;
  • Manage conflicts properly. Indeed, the likelihood of successful projects decreases as disputes between stakeholders intensify or become more frequent or as stakeholders avoid addressing critical issues.


Key success factors (KSFs) of projects

The success factors identified by managers are as follows:

With regard to the plan:

1) Have a well-defined charter, objectives and roles;
2) Have access to sufficient financial resources;
3) Establish quality standards in advance;
4) Opt for a realistic timetable;
5) Rely on a solid and realistic budget.

With regard to processes:

1) Stick to proven work habits and methods;
2) Rely on solid infrastructures.

As far as people are concerned:

  • Encourage mutual trust, cooperation and commitment.

Finally, with regard to authority:

1) Hire experienced project managers;
2) Promote equity and a fair balance between transparency and control;
3) Have an emergency plan in place.

The opposite of these success factors does not necessarily lead to project failure. Projects with relatively unrealistic plans and inexperienced management can still succeed, given luck and some exceptional circumstances.


Key failing factors (KFFs) of projects

Braun and Mesly (2019) identify three key factors for failure:

 – A combination of poor planning and inadequate manpower;

– Existence of hidden conflicts and agendas among stakeholders that are generally based on divergent interests;

– Excessive management trust and inappropriate consideration of risks and vulnerabilities.

All managers interviewed were convinced that projects would fail if these three factors were present. It is not enough to put in place the right positive elements (key success factors), attention must also be paid to the key failure factors.


Four catalysts that pave the way for successful projects

Braun and Mesly (2019) propose four catalysts, called “the diamond of projects”, that can create value for projects:

  • Project managers strive to create a membership system, for example, by meeting with stakeholders at the beginning of the project and on a regular basis to unify their perception of the project;
  • They effectively manage the triple constraint of schedule, cost and quality standards.
  • They set standards of behaviour by applying a code of conduct and acting proactively towards counterproductive behaviours at work;
  • Finally, they manage the unexpected that may occur in various forms and at different times during the project life cycle.


Three central concerns of project management

According to Braun and Mesly (2019), project managers share three fundamental concerns about monitoring and minimizing:

  • The risks that end up affecting the schedule by delaying the flow of tasks and activities;
  • Vulnerabilities that are more closely linked to costs because they require investment to identify and address them;
  • Management and production errors corresponding to deviations from quality standards.


From the research article

MESLY, O., et BRAUN, O. “The Wealth-Building Diamond of Project Management : An Integrative Emerging Model “, The Journal of Wealth Management, avril 2019, vol. 22, no 1, p. 97-107.



Olivier MESLY obtained a DBA in Marketing from the Université de Sherbrooke (2010), followed by a postdoctoral fellowship at HEC Montréal in 2011. Previously, he obtained a Master of Business Administration (MBA) from the University of Guelph in Agri-Food and a Diploma in Public Relations from McGill University (with distinction) – Canada. His research focuses on dysfunctional markets and their agents, particularly predatory behaviour. Before his career as an engineering researcher, Olivier Mesly worked for many years as head of international markets.

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