I'm going to spend the next several posts discussing commonly held, but, in my opinion, profoundly erroneous tenets of project management.
Two esteemed colleagues, David Hampton and Alice Skehan, PMP, rated my list of 10 assertions in order of contrariness to common project management precepts, as well as the extent with which even they disagreed.
Here, then, are my numbers 10 and 9:
Myth 10: Trying to leverage organizational power to implement project management in the macro-organization is futile. Oh, I know, people try it all the time, and in many cases the ultimate outcome bears a strong resemblance to a legitimately installed project management office (PMO).
As I discuss in my book, Things Your PMO Is Doing Wrong, the so-called coercive strategies don't work in the long run for the simple reason that people are being, well, coerced into doing project management.
The moment they can opt out of the system, they will, and no reason that can provide reasonable cover will be considered too silly. I once had a project team that tried to use a paperwork-reduction initiative as a reason why they shouldn't have to send along their earned value reports. Really.
Myth 9: There is no cost performance management without earned value. Period. No exceptions. And yet, the comparison of budgets to actual costs persists.
When I'm instructing new cost engineers in earned value, I like using the following scenario: You're a project manager, assigned to get 2,000 widgets created in two months, with a US$2,000 budget. You time-phase your budget US$1,000 in month one and US$1,000 in month two.
At the end of month one, your accountant comes to you and says that your project has spent US$1,100.
Then I spring the question: "How are you doing?"
Invariably, one of them will say "Poorly, because I'm overspent."
"What if I told you that you had made 1,300 widgets?"
Obviously, that little fact changes everything. In this instance, comparing the budgets to the actuals was not only useless, it was actually misleading. Management information systems can be forgiven for offering up the occasional jejune tidbit, but never for misleading. And yet that's all you're left with if you don't have an earned value management system.
Next up, I'll be taking on the capabilities of the general ledger and re-visiting the bottoms-up estimate at completion debate.