A common side effects of successful project and program management in organizations is the designation of activities as projects or programs which are neither really projects nor programs.
I regularly interview and otherwise engage with lots of project and program managers. Sooner or later the conversation turns to how good they are at their job, and usually pretty soon into this conversation the response comes that they have a great track record. Their great track record is justified because they have repeatedly delivered to time and budget.
Frankly, I am usually a bit sceptical at this point.
Most large organizations have some form of project management and change management teams. In fact, lost of businesses have multiple teams running projects, delivering change and otherwise helping the organization to develop and improve.
There is lots written about project, programme, portfolio and change management – about increasing project performance, creating high performing project teams and so on, but there is less thought about the setting up and running of project and change management teams.
There is a trap it is easy to fall into and, if you fall into it, you will lose out on many opportunities in life. This is the trap in which you look at successful people and assume they are the lucky ones. You may think they get all their ideas right first time and never have had any problems in achieving what they have. Your impression may be reinforced by the media’s continuous portrayal of successful people leading completely perfect lives: they never faced roadblocks, they never trip up, and they are never bored. You could not be more wrong if you think like this.
Project reporting is an important aspect of project delivery. There are many reasons to develop regular project reports. Project reports create a focal point for clarifying the precise status of a project and for providing information which helps key stakeholders to perform necessary supporting actions as well as manage customer expectations.
Ronald Coase the Nobel prize winning economist died recently at the ripe old age of 103. I have an economics degree and remember, very vaguely, having his theories explained.
The American philosopher Thomas Nagel ends his short book “Mind and Cosmos” with these words:
“The empirical evidence can be interpreted to accommodate different comprehensive theories, but in this case the cost in conceptual and probabilistic contortions is prohibitive. I would be willing to bet that the present right-thinking consensus will come to seem laughable in a generation or two – though of course it may be replaced by a new consensus that is just as invalid. The human will to believe is inexhaustible.”
This is a piece about consultancy and the ethics of consultants in one specific area.
I was in one of my client offices the other day, sitting at my desk ploughing through some work, developing a thought piece for the client. Next to me were a couple of people I do not know, who were engaged in a little light banter. They were talking about the company, the work they were doing, and how things were going – but nothing too deep or serious, just chit-chat. At one point one of the people said “of course, no one here knows I am not an employee.”
Does anyone care about job titles? I think the answer should be no, but it seems to me that lots of people still worry about their job title. Yet pretty much any job title is increasingly meaningless outside of a very specific context.
As a consultant I have worked in a lot of organizations. Those organizations have varied in terms of culture, location, scale and sector. During my time in all these organizations there is one phrase which I hear most often. I suspect it is one that every other consultant, business advisor or contractor hears. And that phrase is “we are different”.
One of the things we all spend a lot of time in business doing is reviewing other people’s documents. They may be text documents or slide decks. We can spend huge amounts of time trying to get our head around what the writer(s) meant. Sometimes, for example in responding to a tender, really understanding the document is critical to ongoing success.
I am often asked what makes a great project manager. Like any question of this sort the asker is looking for some simple mantra that is universally true. Life’s a bit more complex than that, but I can give an indication. I think there are five personal characteristics that are fundamental to any delivery role:
I have worked in over 10 different quite varied countries in Europe, Asia, North America and Australasia. I have travelled in many more. I have friends all over the world. I am also a change management professional. Bring all this together and I tend to think I am fairly aware of cultural sensitivities in different environments.
I go through fads of reading lots of blogs and then ignoring them for a while. At one level I think the short style of a blog encourages precise thinking - it’s hard to write something value adding in a very few words.