And ensuring that your project is in good hands

Yogi SchulzMuch has been written about the essential contribution reasonable project management makes to IT project success. Sadly, the reverse is also true. Absent, incompetent, or insufficient project management invariably contributes to project failure.

As an executive who needs the IT project to succeed and is likely the project sponsor, how can you recognize if a superior, competent project manager is leading your active project? Can you tell if it’s being managed by an insufficiently disciplined person who exhibits Gantt chart jockey behaviours? The difference will determine project success or fiasco.

You can gain confidence if your project manager applies the 10 project management knowledge areas common to all projects. The Project Management Institute (PMI) defines these knowledge areas in its Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK). Here’s how to differentiate good from bad project management and determine if intervention is required.

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In part one of this article, we learned the qualities to look for in the first five of the 10 project management knowledge areas. This article discusses areas six through 10.

Project Human Resource Management

Gantt chart jockeys:

  1. Like to hire friends that they enjoy working with.
  2. Believe in the self-managed team concept that allows unfettered leeway for project team members to manage their work without consideration of their ability to do so.
  3. Allow toxic or non-contributing project team members to remain out of fear of upsetting someone in management who may think the person is capable or who assigned the person to the project because there was no other place for the person.

The project soon becomes a runaway project with no discernible completion date.

Reasonable project management of human resources is indicated by:

  1. Position descriptions for every role on the project team.
  2. A selection process that vets candidates for the project team.
  3. A performance management process that includes exit management.
  4. Active monitoring of the work of project team members by the project manager.

Project Communications Management

Gantt chart jockeys spend most of their time interacting comfortably with project team members and little time communicating to sometimes intimidating senior executives and stakeholders. Intermittent communication focuses on good news. Discussion of issues that threaten the project outcome is avoided in the hope that the problem will disappear or resolve itself. The status of the project becomes a mystery to the organization.

Reasonable project managers understand the importance of communicating status and issues proactively to team members and stakeholders to maintain project visibility and commitment to the project goals. Communication occurs both verbally and through a review of written documents. The communication plan includes regular contact with the project steering committee and town halls to inform the organization of progress and accomplishments.

Project Risk Management

Gantt chart jockey projects reactively fire-fight risks after they’ve turned into reality. Risk discussion is characterized as negative vibes that undermine team morale. Risk management is labelled as unwarranted paranoia.

Reasonable project management of risk is indicated by:

  1. An ongoing discussion of risks and risk mitigation with project stakeholders.
  2. An actively updated risk register.
  3. Tasks in the project plan that mitigate high probability, high likelihood risks.

Project Procurement Management

Gantt chart jockey projects simplify life by delegating procurement to the procurement department and accepting its choices for vendors and contract terms. The realization that this hands-off approach has driven up costs due to administrative excess and driven away superior vendors is not recognized until costs have ballooned and quality is inadequate.

Reasonable project management of procurement is indicated by:

  1. A defined process for acquiring products and services.
  2. A recognition that interaction with the organization’s procurement department can consume significant project team resources.
  3. An insistence that contract staff hiring decisions will be made by the project team and not the procurement or human resources departments.

Project Stakeholder Management

Gantt chart jockey management focuses almost exclusively on the project sponsor and speaks only occasionally to steering committee members between meetings. The team assumes that the business analysts assigned to the project team speak for the business. No further stakeholder interaction is required. This approach creates huge end-user take-up issues when the new system is expected to go into production.

Reasonable project management of stakeholders is indicated by:

  1. Review of proposed software with the end-user community.
  2. Involvement of end-users in setting development priorities and in issue resolution.
  3. A people change management plan to guide the transition to the new system.
  4. Expecting significant end-user effort in improving data quality.

Taking Action

Based on your observations about these project management knowledge areas, you can be assured that your project is in good hands, that some project management coaching is indicated or that it’s time to replace that Gantt chart jockey project manager.

Yogi Schulz has over 40 years of information technology experience in various industries. Yogi works extensively in the petroleum industry. He manages projects that arise from changes in business requirements, the need to leverage technology opportunities, and mergers. His specialties include IT strategy, web strategy and project management.

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