There are multiple factors that go into the measurement of a manager’s success or failure. The complexity comes from the diverse and sometimes squishy roles and responsibilities of project management. Living the life of a PM is to accept the paradoxical nature of what we do, and walk a Zen line between both. This means that there is always a give and take between opposing needs and requirements. Failure and success occur with every choice, and the best choice is to minimize the failure while maximizing success.
I’ll tell you a few paradoxes I deal with on a daily basis. For instance, the manager is responsible for the happiness and productivity of the team he manages. If my team hates me, not only will I fail at keeping them engaged and creative, they simply won’t listen to me, deliver late or give me crap work. On the other hand, I am responsible for making clients happy, and delivering on time. Many, many times these two requirements are at odds. My client wants the brief tomorrow. That means that my Architect will have to work all night. What to do? Every day is a balance of ethics, contracts and agreements. There is no right answer, and good answers are the magic of a good manager.
I run Agile projects, but I have contracts that promise clients they will have a launch-able website within a certain timeframe. I have contracts promising clients a set number of hours, but guarantees they will get a set of functionality. I have developers that know how to easily add a feature that is not part of the scope of work but would ingratiate us to the client. I have a contract that promises a feature set we learn later is impossible. I could go on. The fun of managing projects, and the bane of my position is that there is always a balance, and while situations begin to take on patterns, the answers may be different each time