This post completes thoughts expressed in a post on February 27, 2011 at JimMillikenProject.blogspot.com
Has there ever been a project that came in on time, on budget and up to expectation? Yes. Lots of projects do. Not a majority, but plenty anyway.
Why do so many fall short, or fail, or die off? The fascinating reality is that the solution is absurdly simple, but it often runs hard up against deeply held – unexamined – assumptions, convictions and habits. If we’re not careful, our destructive fictions can seem more palatable than constructive realities.
So the reality is that fiction can populate our reality more than the realistic alternatives that would actually work.
One of the most enduring depictions of project management is that a well-planned project will be only 100 percent off schedule, budget and outcome – while a poorly-planned project will be three or four times off.
The poor project description is fully proven all around us all the time. The “good” project part, on the
other hand, is an easy out, not reflective of what happens when a project is properly planned.
In actual fact, organizations and managers who take project management seriously can come in as close as 95 percent or better to original estimates. Taking it seriously requires clearing out the underbrush of routine behavior and focusing on setting tough/achievable goals, then organizing with a real intent to get there.
This goal-setting business may be the hardest part. We’ve all become accustomed to moving our wishes somewhat in the direction of intention, but without any particular passion or practicality. Not only do we fail to make it specific and concrete, but we don’t put any wheels under it – we don’t allocate time, resources and determination to making it happen.
And, most especially, we don’t inconvenience ourselves by dismantling organizational, hierarchical and personal barriers that impede its progress. Often, the result is that a project manager of relatively junior status is upagainst indifference or resistance from autonomous “team members” and higher-ranking “resource providers.”
So, what’s the alternate reality? If projects are to regularly launch, progress and conclude in predictable success, how can that be done?
First, the organization’s leaders must buy into effective project management, with clear understanding of its implications.
Any organization that truly intends to run successful projects must understand how to manage its resource pool to reliably feed a string of initiatives streaming from a soundly-based organizational strategy.
Authority must be understood as a vital asset to be invested by means of delegation, and the delegation must be supported as a matter of the strategy. The hierarchy inevitably fades a bit as it directs people to respond to the requirements articulated by the project manager.
There must be persistent devotion to a clearly established goal. The leadership must thoroughly understand and fully appreciate the value to be achieved by completing projects. It must really commit. That means the resources and support will be steadfast, no matter what, until the goal is met.
Project management has to be seen and executed as a profession. It is distinct from routine, and therefore requires conscious and specific implementation of the differentt skills and practices that will accomplish this new kind of result. It’s a discipline.
Fiction is the stuff of dreams. Reality is what actually happens. Good projects happen when businesslike people distinguish the two and go to work. That can, and does, produce deeply satisfying results.
Reality as reality. It can happen.