Can a project be a success and a failure at the same time?
That is a the question Harold Kerzner asks and answers in the video below.
So what do we make of that? The Iridium failure is very well documented business failure of epic proportions.
An 11 year "project" that resulted in a chapter 11 bankruptcy.
It is very simple. He is wrong.
The argument Kerzner uses is that the project was managed well and was delivered on time and on budget. There you have it, a project management success. An 1996 Article in CIO Magazine called "Ground Control" by Peter Fabris has a great description of all the wonderful things the project team is doing.
The problem with this argument of course is that Kerzner applies a very narrow and in our opinion wrong definition of project management. Project management in the classical term as managing the iron triangle or better devil's-triangle of time-cost-quality. From that perspective there seems to be no arguing, the project was on time and on budget. However this narrow view of project management is the problem. Kerzner does identify as his tip-of-the-day the need to review the business case on a regular basis. His failure is that he seems to see that as outside the work scope of the Project Manager
If from day one the Project/Program Manager(s) would have (been allowed?) to consider and question the validity of the business case this might not have happened.
In Prince2 the review of the Business Case is a mandatory and recurring component!
An excellent article to read on the failure of the Iridium Project is "Learning from Corporate Mistakes: The Rise and fall of Iridium" by Finkelstein and Sanford, Organizational Dynamics, 29 (2):138-148