In his blog “Street Smart Leader”, John Halter has posted an interesting article about “Three Truths of Project Management – What You don’t Learn from the PMP”…
With the current unyielding imperative for furious production, impervious delivery, and flawless implementation savvy customers, armed with the knowledge of differentiating competitive dynamics, have elevated the standards for execution for almost every purveyor. The obligation to deliver these new rigorous benefits with ultimate speed and impeccable perfection has placed a newfound emphasis on organized systemization and instantaneous communication. The talent, not only to produce an ultimate quality product, but to over-protect, over-connect, and over-indulge your customers throughout the entire “process experience” is the “secret sauce” with which to win the hearts and minds of today’s highly demanding customers.
In an effort to grapple and compartmentalize the conceivable chaos of attempting high speed mass-delivery with perfection, many companies have broken their systems into programs and projects. And with this organizational shift to hands-on process control we have seen the ubiquitous rise of The Project Manager. Regardless of whether a process cycle is 20 minutes or 20 months, more and more we see the infiltration of project management disciplines sanctioned as the guardian for efficiency and effectiveness.
As a Leader it is important you possess the skill sets necessary to develop, enact, and lead “best in class” Project Management methodologies to ensure your processes, by themselves, present a competitive advantage.
In my article, Implementing Strategy with a Work Breakdown Structure – WBS, I discussed how to use a Project Management WBS approach in implementing internal strategic plans. The advantages of these skills are wide-spread and should be implicit and exercised throughout your organization’s processes. The rudimentary phases of fundamental Project Management implementation are rather standard. Typically, they consist of the following high-level phases:
Each of these phases has their own disciplines and tactics for success. Regardless of the exact project management doctrine, the singular goals required by all are: to deliver a program or project within Scope, On Time, and On Budget. These three non-negotiable obligatory results are the decisive measures of any success. For your Project Managers to consistently produce exemplary “best in class” victories, they need to possess a variety of important Leadership skills:
- Planning & Goal Setting
- Communicating & Directing
- Delegating & Time Management
- Tracking & Controlling
- Risk Assessment
- Problem Solving
- Utilization of Resources
- Team Building
There are a multitude of programs and books to help guide one through the vast Project Management alternatives available. And for those who require higher levels of Project Management capabilities, the PMP Certification Program exists. A Leader who is serious about bringing the speed and reliability to his business that today’s competitive climate requires will invest serious time and energy into learning the disciplines necessary to engrain a Project Management ideology throughout his deliverable system.
With the accessibility of this formal curriculum, you might begin to believe the acts of bringing this knowledge to your team will spontaneously ignite fresh fires and generate brand-new competitive successes. Although a good Project Management Program will provide the platform, there are some crucial additional dynamics which need to come into play. In another article, Business is Easy, People are Hard – The Change Proposition, I spoke about how in spite of the best “business plans” the “people challenge” presents the most significant impediment to “getting things done”.
Throughout the years of implementing hundreds of projects and programs, I have formulated, “The Three Truths of Project Management”. Understanding and interposing these Three Truths from a proactive position of potency is the difference between good planning and bona fide execution. You will not find these Truths taught in any of the formal books or programs, but they are precepts I vehemently drill into the psyche of every Project Manager who leads our projects.
THE FIRST TRUTH OF PROJECT MANAGEMENT
Everyone is out to screw you – they just don’t know it!
As a Project Manager you will discover it simplistic to gain support for your project from third parties. Once set into motion, no one wants to be a negative influence. As a result, people tend to tell you “what you want to hear”. Sure, they can start on time and they will surely make the deadline. It is easy for others to make commitments on “your” project. They really do not anticipate any harm, so for cooperation’s sake they stay positive. But their world has different and additional priorities than your project. Realities shift, often resulting in them “doing their best” while your project suffers and fails.
If you assume anything, you must assume others will not deliver on their promises. Not because they do not want to, but because something will happen “beyond their control” to cause a failure. It is your responsibility to “Protect the Plan!” This means realizing the zero value of promises. You need proof, hard evidence, from everyone all of the time backing up what they are saying. If they are to receive parts on Friday, you need to see the receiving paperwork. If an item is in transit, you want the tracking numbers. Protect the Plan! Disregard other’s disdain for your conscientiousness. Know where you are vulnerable to other’s failures and plan contingencies. A Project Manager lives in a world of relying on others to carry out their responsibilities. But you do not have to be dependent on them. Diligently stay all over them, from beginning to end, if you want to be successful!
THE SECOND TRUTH OF PROJECT MANAGEMENT
If you haven’t checked on it yourself – It is not going to happen!
On every project I wait to hear the ethereal words, “Trust Me, I’m on it”. This should be a Red Flag to any Project Manager. You can’t afford to be surprised by a failure on your project. Surprise raids you of your options. Surprise propels you into a reactionary spin, often resulting in a less than optimum response. You are not in a position to believe actions have been taken because someone said they would “take care of it”.
A heads-up Project Manager makes the extra calls and checks on the details. He authenticates the reality to ensure the “ball wasn’t dropped”. You must consistently check and follow up on the required actions of others. Living with the liabilities created by others’ forgetfulness and dereliction is what keeps Project Managers up through the night. You are not in the “trust” business – you are in the “show me” business. Follow up on everything!
THE THIRD TRUTH OF PROJECT MANAGEMENT
If everything seems on schedule – you are behind!
If we are half way through a project and I hear that we are on schedule, I immediately know we are behind. The only acceptable answer I want to hear throughout the entire project is that we are “ahead” of schedule. Project Managers should reject the concept of being “on schedule”. Simply, you are either ahead or you are behind.
First, being on schedule implies you are not ready for the possibility of a forthcoming event which could cause a delay. You are working without room to implement a contingency plan when something goes wrong. When a problem does develop, which it will, you are forcing yourself into a position of playing catch up. Catching up means “dollars”! And even if you are able to recover those expenses from another offender, recompense does not happen without a great deal of time, effort, and aggravation against your project.
Secondly, every project I have ever seen, whether it is painting a room or rolling out a complete customer solution, results in the last 10% of the work taking 30% of the time. It is amazing how close you can appear to being finished, and yet the project drags on with the final touches, clean up, last minute changes, approvals, etc. If you are not ahead of schedule all the way through, you are looking at a last minute crunch to complete everything. At the very least, this is a stressful and tiring way to finish a project. Stay ahead of schedule by pushing hard from the start. Do not count on your ability to make it up later. Time is moving. An expert Project Manager stays ahead of it!
Today’s Customers are demanding new solutions be brought to them at lightning speed and with brilliant implementation. Your Business Plan is bursting with projects. Regardless of whether you are in Sales, Operations, Manufacturing, Marketing, you have projects which directly affect growth and profitability. As a Leader you must be focused on Project Management disciplines and tools for the fast and effective execution of your plans. A Street Smart Leader learns how to use the programs and tools of the Project Management craft to outpace and outperform his competition and deliver the “secret sauce”. And he ensures his team stays focused on the Three Truths of Project Management to solidify and guarantee his triumph!