Some Project Management uncomfortable truths

Project Managers can be positive about the outlook of their projects, especially when armed with tried and proven methods and tools. Unfortunately, there are aspects of projects which can limit its success. As project managers we have to face some uncomfortable truths.

Stakeholders have the last say.

No matter how well you manage your project, ultimately success is not down to you. It will be your stakeholders who decide whether to:

  • Adopt the processes you build
  • Use the systems you create
  • Buy the products you launch
  • Employ the assets you deliver

Hence regardless of all the project management processes and disciplines, stakeholder engagement is paramount.

Communication is paramount

Communication is one of the most important factors when managing a project. There must be transparency, willingness and dexterity when communicating to a wide range of stakeholders. Although the role is not to be political in approach, engaging in project diplomacy is almost a must.

The Project Team

If stakeholder engagement is about communication, then the team comes in a very close second. Ultimately the team around you will need to deliver the project, and having the right resources to achieve this is mandatory. The investment you put into developing and nurturing your team will dictate the quality of teamwork and individual commitment you will get out. The mantra of being transparent when communicating with the stakeholder is also the case with your team.

Controlling the environment

Although not necessarily focused on control, the job is to bring control to uncertain, complex, shifting and sometimes confusing environments. The methods and tools used to deliver a project have been designed to provide control.

Traditional vs. Agile

In traditional, predictive project management, there are designed processes and tools to anticipate the next steps and plan for risks and contingencies. However within large-scale software development, it may be difficult to achieve. This is why agile methods were created, to place new frameworks around lower-certainty endeavors. When conditions require both certainty of planning and estimating, which do not encompass either approach, then the use of a hybrid approach that take the most relevant aspects of each should be used.

Conditions are not supporting you.

As project managers, there will be times that outcomes cannot be controlled. However, controlling the preparation and readiness for the unexpected will assist in avoiding this situation.

Stakeholder disapproval

Depending on the size of the project, there could be multiple stakeholders with varying interests of the outcome and how it is achieved. Although project scoping should alleviate any delivery discrepancies, it is one of the hardest parts of a project. As reconciliation of all the different points of view are required at this point. No matter how hard you work, and how ingeniously negotiated, there will often be some stakeholders who will remain unsatisfied.

Projects Are Political

Project managers cannot avoid politics. Scoping is only partly about negotiating the best mix of functionality, specification and quality. It is largely about finding the right political compromise. This is one that respects the relative power of competing stakeholders.

Remain Available

Once you are considered a good or possibly a great project manager, then there will be big demands on your time and the number of projects which are worked on simultaneously. Spreading yourself thin in this instance can affect not only your project but reputation. Ensure you are able to concentrate on the task at hand; otherwise failure will be a very real alternative.

Constant Monitoring and Control Cycle

The more frequently a project is monitored, the sooner an issue is evident. If picked up early then what could become difficult to resolve is not. Failure to monitor often, the first time a problem is noticed could make it almost unresolvable without detailed intervention. If it’s a while before you can check-up on it, any residual issues can quickly blow-up, out of control. Project managers need to be present, to monitor and control projects. If not, then they are not being managed correctly.

Factors beyond the project occur

Because project exists within a wider context of the environment it will be delivered into, then it must be known that the following can occur:

  • Shifting politics
  • Evolving technology
  • Unstable economics
  • Commercial disruption
  • Legislative and regulatory churn
  • Threats to security

All of which affect planning.

Problem solving

At times projects can be predictable and hence become a “Slow Burn” .However on occasion during the project, challenge or problem solving emerges, this provides a sense of achievement, if resolved quickly and effectively.

Attention to Details throughout the entire project

Do not ignore the process of project closure that is handover to support staff, and the release of resources who in turn can work on the next exciting project. Part of the project managers role is to manage resource exits, and into new placements.

If a project manager abandons a project before it is finished, or ignores the details because they are administrative, there’s a price to pay. After putting in 80 percent of the effort the project could be only 20 percent of the success it should have been. Attention to detail is crucial because without it, a successful project could become a sad failure. Truths don’t get more uncomfortable than that.

One final uncomfortable truth: you can’t do it alone. Yes, you need a great team, but don’t forget to give them the tools they need to succeed. Projectmanagementcompanion.com provides cloud-based project management software with a real-time dashboard, online Gantt chart and collaborative features to serve you and your team. See how by taking a  free 30-day trial.

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