When Project Management gets in the Road of Good Project Management


In reviewing projects across many sectors and organisations I am becoming more concerned that project managers are following a standard project management process with little consideration of the context of the project or what success means. The implications are quite profound.

  • The likelihood of success looks like a bell curve with the luck of having the right conditions being the outcome
  • Project management as a discipline gets a bad name when in fact if applied with due consideration can be tremendously valuable
  • Project costs increase without improving the risk profile of the project
  •  People form bad habits with the thought that this is what project management is
  • People are overpaid for managing a simple process rather than adding true value and reducing risk
  • The project becomes slave to the process instead of the process serving the project

How do you know if your organisation is falling into this trap? Take the following test

Tested attributes score
  yes=1, no=0
Does one approach fit all your projects despite the fact they are different types of work?  
Are the artefacts the project?  
Does governance feel burdensome?  
Are stakeholders, including project personnel unhappy but not willing to speak up?  
Does the process dominate the conversation?  
Are all project issues dealt with the same way?  
Is reflection considered a waste of scarce time?  
Is PM accreditation considered more important than demonstrated understanding of project management principles?  
Is delivery responsibility with the PMO and not with the Sponsor/PM combination?  
Have people given up and just go with the flow despite it is clear that the iceberg cometh?  
Is the answer to the question “why are we doing this?” BECAUSE  

If your organisation scored 5 or more, you have some real work to do. If you scored less than 5 keep an eye on the issues.

I am not advocating a free for all in projects. What I am advocating is understanding the fundamental principles and applying those principles to the context of the situation and the project at hand. This requires a greater sense of learning from past experience and the experience of others, a greater effort to understand under what conditions certain approaches have greater success. This implies a greater burden on post-implementation reviews to tease out those conditions for the benefit of all.

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