Stick to Project Management Basics
The importance of fundamentals in project management is obvious, but easy to lose sight of.
As professionals who constantly strive to improve, we study, read, take courses, attend seminars, listen to podcasts and more -- all to become better project managers. Ironically, sometimes this desire to learn causes us to lose focus on the fundamentals.
Instead, we look to novelty, the latest trends and perhaps even the latest fads in the interest of improving.
Likewise, we might embrace sophisticated techniques without ensuring that we've properly implemented the basic things on which the sophisticated techniques depend.
I've often heard great sports figures and musicians emphasize the importance of fundamentals in their success. Project managers would do well to place similar emphasis on the basics of our profession. I'd go even further to suggest that before we embrace any new or sophisticated technique, we should first look at how well we are implementing the fundamentals.
For example, what good does it do us to implement the latest agile techniques on a project where we haven't adequately implemented rudimentary change management disciplines? Similarly, what good would it do to implement Monte Carlo simulations in a context where we haven't adequately identified basic risks?
In my estimation, our success depends almost entirely on how well we have implemented fundamental risk and change management processes.
Things go wrong and plans change -- yet we often charge ahead without adequately planning and preparing for those realities. Certainly, our intuition tells us this is true, and our experience validates our intuition. Yet it still often happens that we lose sight of the obvious fact that the basics matter and matter most.
If you should ever waiver in your conviction, look no further than PMI's 2012 Pulse of the Profession. The report notes that change management and project management basics are among the most critical project success factors.
New and sophisticated techniques have their place, but the best thing to do in any profession is to go back to basics. Don't let the allure of the sophisticated or the novel, distract us from the value of fundamentals.
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|Jim De Piante|
If the research is to be believed, fundamentals apparently do have a positive effect on all projects. Personally (and you may disagree), I put the blame for such a high failure rate on poor implementation of the principles rather than the principles themselves. In any event, Iâ€™m happy to see the principles implemented well, rather than not.
You wisely point out that, â€œWhen you know what to do and you know how to do it: Project Management works fine.â€ Here again, we agree. To implement risk and change management on top of poorly implemented planning is worse than useless. It gives a false sense of control.
I also agree that itâ€™s a mistake for a PM â€œ... to forget the important stuff: the product itself and the value of this product.â€ A PM who doesnâ€™t isnâ€™t fulfilling the role of a real (and good) PMP.
Without a doubt, as you put it, â€œA clear vision, experienced and skilled developers, close collaboration between developers and users, and learning while working are all ... vital to success ...â€ Where we rank them in the constellation of PM competencies is perhaps a matter of personal emphasis. On the other hand, how we rank them doesnâ€™t mean that we can implement the more highly ranked things without also implementing the more lowly ranked things, and still expect to succeed.
The PMP worthy of the title plans well, does all the things you suggest and also implements change and risk management, and likely will succeed. The PMP who doesnâ€™t do all of those things might succeed, but that is a matter of good fortune, and personally, I donâ€™t like to bet my projects on good fortune.
IT seems impossibly complex, but actually I've found that there's a very small set of problems that are experienced by a very large set of project managers. (I'm in the middle of a sizable research project.) Management methodologies are useful; the problem is that they are incomplete.
People who successfully use project management methodologies have, for whatever reason, filled in the missing pieces on their own. For example, some managers may naturally be collaborative, or the corporate culture might be collaborative, enabling those managers to come up with stronger solutions and enjoy more support.
I'm working on filling in the other missing pieces as well. Project management methodologies are useful and necessary in the context of a broader management skillset.
|Jim De Piante|
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