What makes a successful project?

Standing in front of an audience and talking about regeneration projects everywhere in the world I very often feel scepticism. People are listening and even though they may like what I say many of them are constantly thinking: yes, but, things are different here. It may be easy to do that where you come from but here, no, a thing like that would never be possible.

This is why I’m always looking for the things that are comparable. The lessons that can be learned from other projects and can be used in other places in the world.  Of course it’s true. Things are different everywhere. Many presentations on projects focus on the physical aspects like architecture, remediation and infrastructure.

What interests me much more is the approach, the process, the software, or if you want the smartware.

Who is the owner, what was his role? What about the project manager, how are things organised. What kind of programme do they focus on, how do they know they can het that. How are things organised on site, do you feel welcome when you are there? And even though there is a lot to say about hardware these organisational aspects are more important.

So what makes a successful project? Sometimes the answers come from a corner that you never expected. Some years ago the British National Audit Office did a research. They wanted to find out what cities do to achieve success in their regeneration projects. The cities they visited were Rotterdam, Lille, Essen, Malmö, Barcelona, Manchester and London. They say:

“We do not seek to evaluate each of the approaches to regeneration or identify any particular individual approach as an exemplar. Even the most successful of programmes will have its critics. The different constitutional and administrative contexts and problems to be solved in each of the cities and regions prevent simplistic read across.”

So what do you think the accountants of the Audit Office came up with? Rules? Subsidies, money, tax benefits? Good architects? No, it’s nothing of that. This is their list:

  • A clear shared vision
  • Clear and strong leadership
  • A clear implementation plan
  • A network of partners eager to deliver
  • Marshalling the resources needed
  • Central support for partners
  • Monitoring of progress and assessment of impact.


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