~ By Tim Bryce
It must be remembered that project management is first and foremost a philosophy of management, not an elaborate set of tools and techniques. It will only be as effective as the people who use it.Bryce's Law
I often run into companies who ask the simple question,
Why can't we get our act together? Why does project management routinely fail in our company? I do not believe a company's overall problems in project management can be attributed to a specific tool or technique (although some certainly do not help matters). Instead, I believe it is based on how important a company considers project management to be. If they believe it to be a vital part of the company's overall performance, it will be more successful than a company who considers it irrelevant. In other words, I view project management as integral part of the corporate culture.
Let's consider the indicators of how a company values project management:
It must be remembered that project management is first and foremost a philosophy of management, not an elaborate set of tools and techniques, nor is it an administrative function. Rather, it is concerned with managing human beings towards the accomplishment of work (it is a "people management" function). As such, project management will only be as effective as the people who use it.
Ultimately, project management represents discipline, organisation, and accountability; which are three areas people seem to have a natural aversion to these days.
Discipline - In the western world, people tend to resist discipline because some believe it inhibits creativity and personal freedom. As a result, teamwork is often sacrificed in favour of rugged individualism.
Organisation - Pursuant to discipline is the problem of organisation. Again, in the western world, people prefer to maintain their own identity and organise themselves to meet their needs as opposed to the needs of the organisation. There are also those who claim, "A cluttered desk is the sign of a brilliant mind." Hogwash. In contrast, I am a believer of the Navy's regimen whereby you either work on something, file it, or throw it away. This forces people to get organised. If we need more files, let's get them. A cluttered desk is a sign of a disorganised person. Shape up, or ship out.
Accountability - This is an area people tend to rebel against the most. The approach to project management, as advocated by "PRIDE," ultimately represents visibility and responsibility to produce according to plan. Unfortunately, some people shun commitments and, instead, prefer to hide their activity, thereby they cannot be measured and evaluated. This is typically the reaction of people who are insecure. People who are confident in their abilities have no problem with the accountability issue.
The old adage, "If you do not make the decision, the decision will be made for you," is valid. This also sums up the difference between an active and a reactive manager. True project management requires an "active" manager, not "reactive." The active manager takes care of the problems before they happen. They plan on the future. The reactive manager deals with yesterday and waits until problems occur, then tries to take care of them. Today, more and more IT organisations find themselves in a constant "firefighting" mode of operation. Why? Because of a "reactive" management style. The "reactive" manager never seems to get ahead, yet probably enjoys the highest visibility in the company. As an aside, beware of your "firefighters," they are probably your chief arsonists.
Managers don't wait for things to happen, they make things happen.
Can the philosophies of project management be adopted and implemented by a single group of people for a single project? Yes. A department or division? Certainly. The entire company? Definitely. In fact, as the scope grows, communications improves and the philosophy is more consistently applied.
The scope of project management affects many people:
Obviously, project management should not be restricted to a handful of people or projects. Dozens of projects may be active at any one time, involving hundreds of workers across departmental boundaries. Synchronisation of the work effort is required to maximise effect and minimise confusion. project management, therefore, should be viewed as a corporate philosophy as opposed to a technique used by a select few. Only when a standard and consistent approach to project management is adopted by a company will it become an integral part of the corporate culture. We will then hear less about why project management fails, and more of how the company is prospering.
For additional information on "PRIDE" project management, see: http://www.phmainstreet.com/mba/pride/pm.htm
Tim Bryce is the Managing Director of M. Bryce & Associates (MBA) of Palm Harbor, Florida, a management consulting firm specialising in Information Resource Management (IRM). Mr. Bryce has over 30 years of experience in the field. He is available for training and consulting on an international basis. His corporate web page is at: http://www.phmainstreet.com/mba/
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