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The Problem with Project Management

I've recently written a few rants articles about value and waste in project management.

How does project management add value or create waste in your organization?
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Project management add value by creating structure and a mechanism to track progress and accountability as to what need to be done for the project to meet its goals. The waste part of project management is when the people behind the project management practice begin to think that the process they built is solid and does not need to be updated based on the changing environment. Sometimes if a gating process works for sometime, it does not mean it will continue to be effective overtime.

Josh - so like your articles (especially the rants..!). I agree with Randy. Project management is a tremendously valuable tool, a means to an end. But it is not the only tool in the toolbox..! In terms of adding value, project management helps to get things right over the course of a project and project related work. In terms of creating waste, I would like to think (perhaps I am being naive) that organizations would realize that any creation of waste represents an opportunity for improvement. Therein lies the problem. Some organizations, not all of course, throw out the baby (project management) with the bath water rather than realizing that the baby needs constant care and feeding (and I might add love) so that it can grow and realize its full potential. Project management - you get out of it what you put into it.

Mark... Your comment re: the baby being thrown out is an accurate statement to one of my work experiences. The moment things begin to not work according to the interest of the people around the project, suddenly project management is now an obstacle and they begin to to give you statements such as you do project management and we will do what we need to do. The moment you hear this from your senior leadership, you have just lost control and support. I actually ask the senior leadership the question as to why we say we need project management when the moment project management detects a potential project problem, suddenly it is a tool that is an impediment to the team.

The sentiments of the OP and commentators mainly express what I term as "cultural issues" (as limitations) rather than problems with the methodology ... which arise when players are drawn outside their analytical comfort zones and lead to undesirable responses.

These limitations can be inherent (weak skills) or imposed from external forces like tectonic changes in financial or business agendas. I often typify this as "fair weather sailors" who are not prepared for (or interested in) a buffeting ... and reflexively reach for a tighter grip without considering need or appropriateness.

In my book the ideal PM is constantly reviewing the horizon for dark clouds and charting an optimal course - which can be hard if you have a "limited" crew.

I believe RIsk Managemant fills both ends of the spectrum from value to waste.

Good risk management and mitigation should provide the most value from project management (Is project management even needed when everything goes according to plan, i.e., risk free endeavor?). In other cases, all risks are "accepted", that is, planning assumes perfect forsight and execution with no schedule or cost room for any issue mitigation. When a risk actually materializes, then much time is wasted convincing various stakeholders that reality rules and we need to adjust the plan to fit reality (rather than vice-versa).

It really sholdn't be too surprising that risk management would falll into both categories - do it well and it is a benefit, do it poorly and it is a cost.

Let's consider the term project management - Project management is the discipline of planning, organizing, securing, managing, leading, and controlling resources to achieve specific goals.

First, an organization that invests in a standard methodology and hires and trains project managers to manage these repeatable best practices their culture has adopted with prove to be successful - that's where the real "value" is recognized...the bottom line. But I will also, state that the investment in "value"will also be recognized through your human capital; your talented project &, program managers.
Mature project & program managers will help avoid, mitigate, identify and rid your projects of waste however, I will also state that it should be part of the organizational culture to help improve business processes to reduce and eliminate waste. Organizations should also invest more in business analysts to help reduce waste and optimize the opportunities in partnership with project and program managers.
Real value can be fostered and improved over time with internal and external partnerships and the investment of key talent project management to help drive the return of investment and competition in the marketplace.

Bottom line benefit is economical. By consistently selecting the most important projects, efficiently managing all resources (human and material) you improve profitability. This allows the Company to do more of the right projects based on what they learned from previous projects, retain employees who have experiences to bring to the table, etc. all of which add to the bottom line.

I don't think it's project management itself that adds value or creates waste - what I see is the application of project management by individual project managers that either adds value or creates waste. This tends to happen when newbie project managers apply all the processes in the book to a project when they really don't need to. I think tailoring methods should be something more companies embrace, and we'll start to see more value add because there will be less bureaucracy.

Sometimes organisations that implement project management are like reformed smokers, very evangelistic. They try and apply it to everything regardless of whether it is needed or not.

In these cases the PM overhead far outweighs the benefits it delivers, so it can be argued that the full PM methodology is not needed for every small change. In fact these small changes are not really projects,

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