Why did the Project Manager cross the road?

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Try answering this – Why did the project manager cross the road?

To make it easy, I give you 3 probable reasons:

a) He was asked to cross the road

b) He heard they were setting up free project support camps on the other side

c) He thought he could get a better view from the other side

I am going to utilize the above rhetorical question to describe some of the challenges / scenarios a Project Manager usually faces, discuss typical patterns and outline what is recommended.

A) He was asked to cross the road.

A Project Manager more often than not, has to follow direction, and steer from top (which is usual), along with a given set of constraints (which is also usual) and this leads to unfavorable situations for the project stakeholders, the team and everyone else – if not managed correctly. The Project Manager has to be wise enough to understand the expectations, recognize the constraints and define what is doable and within practical limits – there is no place for superhuman-ism and heroics, however glorified these may be.

Trust me, People will appreciate a logical explanation of how “Something is best possible” rather than “Everything which is more unlikely” (i.e., predictability over good luck and heroics).

That’s the significance of option A – measure your team’s stride and ensure that the jump can be made.

B) He heard they were setting up free project support camps on the other side

Review and monitoring (Governance) is a key facet of project management. Follow your gut feel. Over and above data, facts and fiction, this is something you should trust – your instinct. More than all the well wishers and the duh-and-nay-sayers, you should rely on your ability to plan for contingencies and forecast issues, do not outsource this to an external mind / minds.

Also, it is normal for expectations and dynamics (people, systems, processes) to change over a period of time, and more so in the case of long running projects. What is important is to ensure that there is continuous engagement planned with key stakeholders and that such engagement is not limited to Requirements and Acceptance phases, and run-of-the-mill type reviews which is typically the case.

This will ensure there is periodic validation – early course correction & alignment by way of inputs / feedback and more importantly, will elicit a feeling of involvement and commitment from all stakeholders – in a turbulent world. (to know more, you could also read my article http://blog.himeshkc.com/2014/02/25/critical-success-factors-top-10/)

That’s option B- This project could be your only baby, while for others, this may not be their only baby or they may not like babies at all, so make sure that you are able to garner interest and build a sense of responsibility and involvement across all stakeholders.

C) He thought he could get a better view from the other side

Sometimes, a Project Manager can get so involved with balancing the 3 constraints (schedule, budget and scope), and add to this – monitoring, delivering the project and churning out status reports and metrics, that he is not able to detect when the project starts deviating from the primary goal or if any external influence / change has or will have an adverse impact on the project.

You should not be lulled into a comfort zone, when things appear smooth, and likewise break your composure, when the going gets rough. There are usually too many variables and human elements that are often unseen in a plan or while planning – team, internal & external stakeholders, their availability, interests and priorities, understanding with vendors / third parties etc. Ensure that the basis of your project (plan & governance) takes into account some or all of these aspects.

It is always better to (periodically) put yourself in the shoes of the end Customer for whom you are delivering this project, and try visualize  – will this work the way the project team intends, will it work the way the Customer wants, can this be done in a better way?

Unless you have a direct view and understanding of the benefits and impact that this project is going to bring on, and what are those internal / external factors that can influence / undermine the value of the project, you will not be doing justice to the project and the stakeholders.

That’s what option C is about – ensure that you always have both perspectives in mind, and you could make the journey a whole lot easier, for all.

Well, so while there may not be a correct answer to why the Project Manager crossed the road, the closest I can think of is … he wanted to herd the cats back into their cubicles! 🙂

So there, see if you can out answer me on this one.

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