My Project Management Expert

Successful Project Management

There are I think two views of what successful project management entails. On the one hand there are those who believe that by immersing yourself into a Project Management methodology and devising ever more convoluted plans and documentation, somehow the project will successfully just happen. After all I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase a thousand times “If you fail to plan, you’re planning to fail”.

However in my view this is fatally flawed, because it does not take into account the human element. Wherever humans are involved there is always a high probability that tasks will not go according to plan, because after all they’re not robots. They will get sick, misunderstand the task, forget deadlines and generally get distracted by other more interesting work available. And no amount of fiddling with a complicated plan will change that.

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I therefore am from the other school of thought when it comes to determining what Successful Project Management is. Certainly there is a hugely important role to be played by the Project Initiation Document or PID, Detailed Requirements, Budget and Project Plan, but this must not be at the expense of actually getting the project delivered.

So for example, I was once brought in to take over a failing project which had been running for 2 years. The existing Project Manager had devised a hugely complicated 4,000 line project plan, which at first sight looked extremely impressive and also extremely complicated. However when I got into the nuts and bolts of the project I couldn’t see what was so difficult about it.

Sure there were some issues, but which project doesn’t have those?? It turned out the Project Manager spent all his time updating and amending that 4,000 line plan whilst spending no time actually working with the team to make sure deliverables were met. In fact he’d been so dedicated to producing Prince 2 documentation he hadn’t even realised that the Test Manager, who also had been there for 2 years, had in that timeframe never produced a single test script. Hardly surprising then that the testing was problematic and going nowhere.

I promptly reduced the plan to 250 lines and started motivating the team. Six months later we were in a position to launch, which only highlighted how much time and budget had been wasted during those previous 2 years.

Therefore my view on Successful Project Management is it is a balancing act. On the one hand you must have the project documentation to ensure the project can be properly managed, and to ensure that if things go horribly wrong, you can back up your position. However, actively managing the resources and dealing with potential Risks and Issues before they become problems is as important, if not more important.

After all the question you need to ask yourself is,

“Is my reputation going to be enhanced by the fact I successfully delivered what the Business wanted to time and budget, or by the fact I got the paperwork done but the project didn’t launch on time and wasn’t what the Business wanted”?

In my experience you will always be remembered by your successes. After all in one instance I successfully delivered a $10M project without a PID or even a defined budget. It was a project which internal resources estimated would take them 18 months to deliver. I had just 6 months. I successfully delivered the project which launched on time and within budget. However my paperwork was minimal, much to the horror of the Project Management Office. Of course all that anyone remembers now is that I managed to deliver the undeliverable not that there was minimal paperwork. And that one project essentially made my reputation.

So never lose focus on getting the actual project successful delivered, because that is a skill in much demand by Corporations globally especially during the Credit Crunch. After all, anyone can fill in reams of documentation. Few can motivate resources and effectively manage problems to consistently deliver projects.

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