As most project managers know, having solely a project plan does not guarantee project success. We can fill entire buildings with project plans that are associated with failed projects.
I have found in my experience that there are generally Four Critical Components that a project manager must consider when implementing programs or projects to assess the probability of success for his project.
1. Senior Management Support - this is a key ingredient to success. The project must have full senior management support and this does not mean just financially, but that helps of course, but senior management must believe in the output and must advocate for it to the general business community. This is where excellent stakeholder management skills come into play. A project manager must understand what BUSINESS KPIs are important to senior management, how the project supports those and what is the ONE PROJECT KPI that senior management will protect in times of crisis - cost, schedule, quality, scope?
2. A Solid Strategy - Thee project must tie up to an overall business strategy that can span multiple years and it must be an important part of that strategy. The strategy must be concrete (not just a vague vision), comprehensive, sustainable and drives significant incremental value to the company or client. If the project feels more like an off activity then it probably is a rogue project and we all know that at crunch time - nice to have projects are no match to critical to do projects.
3. An Enabled Talent Pool - we all know this - even the best project plans out there will not bring any benefit to the company and the project if the people leading and executing the plans are not properly enabled and/or not the caliber required by the project. Don't be deceived by some people saying that project managers are generalists - the best project managers I have seen are actually specialists. Not to say that they can't run general projects but they excel in their chosen fields. The project team members must also complement one another, know their roles and must be properly resourced to execute their jobs. The most mature team are those that understand that individual superheroes do more damage than good to a team and at the end of the day - it is the entire project team - working as one - that can deliver successful projects.
4. A Consistent and Appropriate Set of Tools and Processes - from process definition, handovers and even documentation requirements - all of these must be consistent and appropriate for the project being undertaken. A good PM will know the different process and tools (like those from the PMBOK) - a great PM will know which processes and tools will be most effective in the project. Discuss early on in the project what processes will the team follow, who will do what at every task (RACI), what documents will be required at what phase and what tools will be used to create and share project assets across team members. Regularly assess as well how the tools and processes are helping the project and be open to changing them if need be.