By Eileen Strider
In the world of projects, organizations reward project managers for success and punish them for failure, as if the project manager was solely responsible for either. As a project manager, you know this perspective is both a trap and a myth. Projects don’t succeed or fail based only on the actions of the project manager.
A project manager’s skills are certainly important. Having project management expertise, training, communication skills, a good head on your shoulders and a healthy dose of courage are valuable assets. And if you have these, then you know the entire project community can either support or sink a project.
The people who directly work on the project are viewed as “The Project Team” with the project manager as their leader. The rest of the organization often thinks the project team does all the work while they kibitz. But the project manager has to manage a much larger community that the project team members who are doing day-to-day project work.
The community includes a much broader group of people than the “project team”: CEOs, vice presidents, directors, managers, supervisors, staff members, vendors, suppliers, implementation partners, consultants, contractors, boards of trustees, etc. Each contributes to the success or failure of a project.
Okay, so what am I talking about? Here are some real live examples from my personal experience.
Board of Trustees Contribution Example
The project schedule had slipped multiple times for numerous reasons. Each schedule extension led to increased implementation costs. Each time the schedule slipped, the project manager took a request for more funding to the Board of Trustees. Each time the Board approved more funding. By the time we were called in to review the project, the cost had increased 400%, the Board was upset with the project manager and was ready to sue the vendor and the implementation partner. When we asked them why they had approved each additional funding request, they realized they hadn’t asked the right questions and accepted their contribution to the project’s problems.
Executive Collusion Example
While reviewing a failing IT system project, we kept hearing about problems with employee data. Depending on how you accessed employee data in the new system, you could get up to three different addresses for the same employee. Digging a little deeper, we discovered that the VP of HR refused to have his staff use the new system’s employee identification numbers, because his HR staff complained about having to enter more characters than they were used to entering. So, the VP of Finance agreed with the VP of HR to customize the system. The customization basically broke the integration between the HR and Payroll systems and resulted in employee data being stored in three different locations with no integrity checks.
I could go on and on with examples. But you get the idea.
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