3 Ways to Save Your (Reluctant) Project Manager Bacon by @iecmike #pmot

I’m happy to share this space with my colleague, Mike Taylor, President of Innovative-e. So check out his awesome insights on 3 Ways to Save Your (Reluctant) Project Manager Bacon.
I’m happy to share this space with my colleague, Mike Taylor, President of Innovative-e. So check out his awesome insights on 3 Ways to Save Your (Reluctant) Project Manager Bacon.
Whether you’re a seasoned PM or what we like to call a “Reluctant PM,” someone who has taken on PM duties in addition to other job functions, you’ll find that seeking clarity, finding the proper direction, and taking correct action will help your projects run as smoothly as a well-maintained machine.

“Why is it so hard to manage projects the right way?“ This question was posed to us during a first meeting with a senior government official frustrated that his organization could not easily get even the most basic project data like lists of projects, resource assignments, and schedule performance. Unfortunately, this client’s situation isn’t unique. Even with all the technology available today, most organizations struggle with the most basic functions of project management.

This is not to say that some folks haven’t figured it out. Many software shops, engineering organizations, and large service companies have high levels of project management maturity. This higher maturity level means they have done the hard work of building processes, training and certifying project managers and team members, and building a level of automation that provides the actionable data they need.

Good for them, but what about the rest of us?

The vast majority of people who manage projects aren’t project management professionals by trade. They are folks who have risen to a level of management where they are expected to successfully deliver some product or service to their stakeholders, but project management is only a part of their job. The term “Reluctant PM” has gained favor recently to describe these people.

Key to effective project management is an effective Project Management Information System (PMIS). For reluctant PMs, the PMIS has to do just enough to accomplish key objectives for the project manager and the sponsor. Finding this “sweet spot” for a PMIS is best summed up with the following:

“The sweet spot primarily targets the communication and reporting improvements that need to be made between the project manager (the one responsible for managing and monitoring the work) and the project sponsor (the one asking for the work and responsible for justifying the need to have the work completed)”

– Gartner MarketScope for Project and Portfolio Management Applications, 13 June 2011

Some of the most common causes for PMIS failure are:

  1. Not knowing what level of maturity is right of the organization and purposefully aiming for it
  2. Getting the people, processes, and technology aligned properly

Tilted Egg

You can’t have a discussion of bacon without eggs 😉 The above diagram shows the basic levels of a PMIS maturity model. The red circle (titled egg) represents an organization that has rushed forward with technology/tool deployment, but hasn’t yet worked to align the processes and people components. The red arrows are specific actions that help straighten the “egg” for a better-performing PMIS.

The three ways to save your reluctant PM bacon involves “tuning up” (or possibly replacing) your PMIS. That can sound scary, but it’s very doable if you follow this approach. The results will be worth it!

1. Gain Clarity – Do the research required to reveal obstacles and underlying causes.

– Perhaps you don’t have the right technology platform to do what you need to do. For example, many of the SaaS (Internet-based) solutions on the market today do a great job of project collaboration, but they do NOT have the ability to aggregate resource information or roll-up project data in a reliable central view.
– Perhaps your processes aren’t mapped to the technology you do have. Automating bad or broken processes just gets you bad or broken results FASTER.
– Perhaps your people don’t know how the right way to use the technology or aren’t versed in the processes.

2. Get Direction – Build a plan for getting back on course.

Map the problem areas to specific improvements that can be made.
– Don’t try to do too much too fast; plan on iterative improvement cycles. Keep in mind that, of the people, processes, and technology triangle, it’s the people part that is often hardest to change.
– Think about putting fast/easy wins in early cycles. People will want to use something they find actually adds value to their work and the organization.

3. Take Action – Work the plan.

Identify your sponsor. It’s the person(s) who are approving/financing this work and expect to get something out of it.
– Make sure you know what that something is! There has to be a central reason/goal that the sponsor and stakeholders get behind.
– Run this like a project: Build a communications plan, track progress, understand risks, etc.
– Close each cycle with a formal meeting to review attainment of goals, lessons learned, items for future phases (keep a list).

Following these steps can not only save your bacon, but by realizing tangible results for your stakeholders, you might actually start enjoying the PM process. Good luck!

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