When explaining what I did for a living, my father said “Oh, so you are a Foreman?” And I would respond with “Well, not really dad. The things I work on are brand new initiatives that….” In turn, he would say “Ah, I got it. You take on new initiatives and have to manage a bunch of folks with different skills. You’re like a contractor”….sure dad.
My dad worked for the telephone company many years ago and was constantly managing projects…laying fiber before it was ever common, building out telephony infrastructure in new neighborhoods, etc. and he was never called a Project Manager. He didn’t think about which methodology to follow or what communication methods to leverage, he just got the job done. Do you think there was a “Project Manager”, assigned to build the pyramids, and who followed a set methodology, with project status reports and so…to a point yes, but not how we know it today. Even today, I have friends (accountants, operations analysts, etc) saying they have been assigned as the Project Manager to head up the new initiative at the workplace. None of these folks are certified, they don’t know what waterfall or agile are, and many don’t know what a stakeholder is. Amazingly, what all of these folks (my dad, Egyptians of their day, and random PMs) did have in common was that without the so-called ‘tools of the trade’ they successfully completed great projects!
I can hear the project management community rumbling now…”but if they followed an Agile approach, they could have done it quicker”…”if they leveraged this tool over here, the Pyramids would have been twice as big!” News flash…based on several current studies/surveys, which point to project success rates around 50%, if they did follow current project management ‘best practices’ we might not have the pyramids today. Okay, before I get banned from TalkingWork or shunned from #pmot and #PMChat, let me remind you that KPS is a Project/Program Management Consultancy and this is our core business, so we are not saying PM/PPM/EPM frameworks & techniques don’t work…or we would be out of business.
What I would like to get you to think about is the core benefits of what project/program management brings to an organization…
- Project Leaders enable executives to act strategically – A strong project leader and effective communicator allows senior management to remove themselves from the details and more operational aspects, so they can focus their efforts on industry trends, competitive analysis, innovation, and growing the business.
- Coordination of organizational resources – Everyone is overworked, has limited budgets, and competing interests (a.k.a – P&Ls). Executives shouldn’t be wasting their time trying to get people to work together. An effective project manager can identify the various levers to pull, navigate the political waters, and bring the various parties together for the good of the organization. From more of a program level, being able to help an organization understand how multiple projects will affect their resources (people, budgets, etc), their roadmap (either go-to market, IT strategy, etc), and so on.
- Creates scalable, reproducible processes – Almost every organization I have been associated with and project managers I speak with, is focused on the project at hand. Few of them truly get into the maturity of their organization and how that maturity level differs from business unit to business unit. We regularly help non-IT business units with projects and are often their first experience with formal project management. We have gone to PMO Directors and asked “What is your process? We would like to learn what the IT org is doing and try to extend it out to the business and bring them around” You would be amazed at how many of these folks respond with “we hosted a training session and all the templates are out on the intranet.”
- Effective Project Management removes the walls created by tech-speak and bridges the gap between the business and IT – Unfortunately, the acronym heavy world of project management is at risk of putting up the very walls that we are trying to break down. PMs are the professionals and the onus is upon us to translate PM/Tech-speak into terms that are more natural to that of our customer. Asking team members to learn new tools, acronyms, etc is not their job…they are lawyers, accountants, and business owners. Would you like it if your doctor spoke to you in strictly medical terms? Of course not. For those patience that are somewhat savvy in the diagnosis or ask for some of the more ‘official’ terms, I would certainly expect the doctor to answer accordingly. Similarly, if a PM is asked about how he/she specifically got to a decision or why the product launch was in the 2nd quarter, then they should be able to pull out the tools and get to that next level of technical discussion.
I know there are a lot of aspects to project management and the techniques are what help us accomplish those things mentioned above. However, we cannot let the tools of the trade get in the way of the core value we can bring to an organization. Organized, charismatic, and well-organized people have been delivering exceptional results since the beginning of time. Let’s not allow the core value proposition of project management get buried in an increasingly productized discipline. Project management is a relationship-centered, soft-skills discipline that can’t get boxed into a series of templates, processes, and methodologies that have not unequivocally proven to increase project success.
If you were to ‘sell’ project management, what would you say are the key benefits the discipline can offer an organization?