Critical factors in project implementation: a comparison of construction and R&D projects

Jeffrey K. Pinto, Jeffrey G. Covin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

164 Scopus citations


The theoretical literature on project management tends to assume that certain organizational rules, executive procedures, and environmental conditions (we call them 'critical success factors') are essential to the success of all types of projects. Meanwhile, management practitioners frequently ignore such general rules, because they are convinced that their particular projects pose entirely unique kinds of problems. This study, based on 408 responses to an extensive questionnaire, explores managerial perceptions about project characteristics. For this purpose, we chose two types of projects apparently lying at opposite ends of a spectrum of characteristics-construction and R&D. We were interested additionally in whether factors considered crucial to successful execution varied over the life cycles of projects. The findings suggest that while some critical success factors appear to be common to both types of projects, there also exist significant differences; and, furthermore, that these factors tend to vary with stages in the life cycle. We conclude that practitioners may derive benefit from paying attention to normative project-management theory, but that theoreticians must also descend from the level of broad generalizations to take into account the peculiarities of various classes of projects.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)49-62
Number of pages14
Issue number1
StatePublished - May 1989

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Engineering
  • Management of Technology and Innovation


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