New PMs + Old Processes = A Bad Combination

Andy Jordan is President of Roffensian Consulting S.A., a Roatan, Honduras-based management consulting firm with a comprehensive project management practice. Andy always appreciates feedback and discussion on the issues raised in his articles and can be reached at andy.jordan@roffensian.com. Andy's new book Risk Management for Project Driven Organizations is now available.

New and inexperienced project managers love established processes—or at least, their employers love them. All foundational project management training is based on process-related stuff, whether that be developing estimates to build a plan or how to conduct risk management—highly structured approaches supported by templates and guidelines.

That generic training is then followed up by organization-specific education on the in-house methodology—the templates that need to be filled out, the format and timing of status reports, the way change control boards operate, etc.

Here’s the problem: Relying on processes will make young project managers worse, not better. It will hurt their ability to deliver successful outcomes. The reason for that is that standard processes are necessarily compromises. They attempt to find a “good” approach that can be applied to every situation, and as a result they don’t offer the best approach for any one situation.

In most cases, that’s okay because they are close enough to not make a material difference. But on every project, there will be a few situations where the PM has to adapt, adjust or bypass the processes in order to deliver the best possible outcome.

New project managers don’t have the experience to recognize those situations and respond accordingly. Instead, they use the …

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