This commentary extends ideas presented in a post April 18, 2010 at JimMillikenProject.blogspot.com
Look! Over there! Looming ever larger on the horizon! It's a mighty white horse, and astride it is an all-powerful figure in shining armor – the Project Manager!
In this heroic portrayal, the Project Manager is pretty much the solution to everything. It is not at all unusual for the initial glow of Project Management to be brighter than the reality.
That can be true whether the occasion is appointment of a competent individual to head up an innovation effort, or the establishment of a continuing Project Management function in an organization. A sneakier corollary is when the matter is considered impossible but necessary, and someone is to be the designated fall guy.
Even when there's a white knight syndrome, it doesn't last long.
Whatever extreme applies, there does tend to be a general acceptance of the idea that Projects will come in late, over budget and short of expectations no matter what you do. Sometimes advance planning and strong execution are seen as useful, but only to reduce the damage.
Without thinking things through, many Project Managers buy into that philosophy, which is why it's all their fault.
You can understand why they think that way. Virtually all of us have witnessed a string of fondly launched initiatives bashed into multiple problems before they lurch half-done to a rather sour conclusion. That's a fact of life as it customarily is lived in our organizations.
Projects, after all, are uncertain, speculative innovations. That's why they're projects. If they weren't, your regular ways of doing business would accomplish them handily.
So RISK is the name of the game: Risk, the possibility/probability that things won't go as expected.
It's surprising, when you really think about it, that risk, real risk, gets so little attention. Consider: This most fundamental reality about Project Management is dismissed because of a fatalistic expectation that things aren't going to go well, anyway.
Yet, risk is the reason we consider Projects different from day-to-day activities.
This is the victory of negative expectations. You “know” it's not going to work, so you're disinclined to devote yourself to the detailed grind of making it work. Because of this, many flaws ascribed to fate, or to the nature of projects, result instead from superficial planning and inattentive execution.
The heads-up Project Manager engages risk beginning at the moment a Project starts emerging from the decision-making apparatus of the organization. Risk management should begin before the dawn, and it should intimately involve every key stakeholder, with the leadership of the Project Manager.
Properly employed, it immediately and continuously throttles the greatest risk of all, the failure of belief.
It also strengthens the image of the Project Manager as one who accomplishes great deeds against the odds. It infuses the workmanlike vision with some career status that could get the attention of those little kids in search of role models. Hi-yo Silver!