Project management is a much sought-after trade. Finding the right project manager for a given project can be a challenge. Today’s measuring tools such as PMP (Project Management Professional) are relied upon by many companies in an effort to find a credible project manager. My view of PMP is that it is a useful tool in breaking a tie but should not be used as the primary method of identifying qualified project managers. Don’t get me wrong, there is value in having a PMP.
Let’s say that I know the playbook for the Washington Redskins. In fact, let’s say that I can tell you every play in detail in that playbook. Give me the test and I pass with flying colors. Great! Now does that make be a professional football player or does that qualify me to play football, period? The simple answer is “no.” Likewise, the measuring tool widely used today to measure whether a project manager can, in fact, manage a project in no way makes that person a project manager. There is something called experience: the ability to execute, the ability to perform the tasks and duties as defined by PMBOK (Project Management Body Of Knowledge). It is somewhat similar to my having the ability to carry out a pass route in the NFL, make the catch, elude tackles, and outrun my opponent to the end zone. It “aint going to happen.”
Now all of this leads into executing the different pieces of project management. There are so many important areas but one I want to discuss here is communication. Now I’m not speaking to the communication as defined by PMBOK, where you create a communication matrix to identify those communication paths and communication methods. I’m not speaking about communication where you identify the frequency of communicating to those identified in the matrix. I’m speaking to real life communication, where the parties you are interacting with during a project have no interest in communicating to you or you communicating to them. How do you handle such challenges?
My experience in over 25 years of IT project management is when you encounter such situations during a project, they can be very difficult and sometimes impossible to overcome. PMBOK provides methods of resolution such as working with management to resolve someone’s refusal to participate. Maybe the person is replaced on the project with someone else who will be involved and willing to participate. More often the resolution is to work through someone else and remove the direct interaction with the person who refuses to participate. However, those items don’t always work, as they are not always options. What if the management really doesn’t support a resolution? What if the manager is the one who is refusing to participate? What if their management refuses to get involved? Is the project doomed? The short answer is “no, the project is not necessarily doomed;” however, it could be derailed for a period of time or slowed to a crawl. The risk of failure does increase significantly.
What PMBOK doesn’t discuss is what I call a “phase zer0” of any project. That is where you perform some assessments of the organization, which include but are not limited to, the identification of skill requirements, staff support top to bottom, planned scheduling of other projects and so on. Does this person have a history of non-participation? What about a DiSC assessment of key project participants? Some will say this is part of any project initiation. This identification should occur before a project initiation. It should occur to determine whether a project should even be scheduled and allocated to project managers. It should occur before the budget is defined and allocated. Are the company and stakeholders prepared to take on a given project?
The recommendations based on the assessment results may say that some key staff don’t have the required skills needed. It may show that personality-wise, some staff will not be participative and will not cooperate in project activities. These type of items should be uncovered earlier than later. Communication is critical, but if there are management team members unwilling to participate in project details and unwilling to communicate or help in resolving communication issues, then wouldn’t you want to know this before the project started? This can be said of every area critical to the success of any project.
Communication is but one area, but a critical area where people often fail to participate.
As you plan your future projects, give some consideration to having an outside source performing a “phase zer0” for your next project. Identify areas that are potential landmines just waiting to be stepped on. Find, weed, and cultivate key project team members before your next project. You will find that your successes will increase, not just completing the project but completing within the time and budget according to plan. You will be pleasantly surprised with the value this approach will bring to your projects.