Project management is founded on common sense

When cooking a meal of roast lamb, peas and beans, the lamb goes in the oven first, the beans go into boiling water or the steamer some time later, and the peas last of all. (For 'lamb' please may we beg forgiveness of vegetarian readers and ask them to read instead 'nut cutlet', which we are informed has the necessary cooking properties to make this example work.) That way all the food is ready at once, and the meal works. Start cooking the lamb, the beans and peas at the same time, and they will all be ready at different times. That is the heart of project management: doing different things at the right times so that the end result is what is wanted. This means knowing what is wanted, what inputs we need to get there, what processes must be performed, and in what order. Some risk management is also a good idea: what if the lamb cooks faster, or slower, than expected? We check the lamb from time to time to see whether it is progressing as expected, and bring forward or delay the start of cooking the beans and peas. It is exactly the same in project management: we determine what is likely to vary from our plan, we monitor progress to check for variance, and we take steps and change things to ensure that despite variances we end up with what we wanted.

There is a view often heard among older employees who have had the job title of 'project manager' for a number of years that they have little to learn in project management. This may well be true: if someone has been a dependable and capable project manager for many years, then clearly they do know what they are doing. However, their employer may see things differently, because at the organizational level, there is a huge benefit to having everyone involved in project management doing things the same way. To take an analogy, two drivers may be very competent in driving cars, but if one drives on the left side of the road and the other drives on the right, then there is a huge benefit to having them both drive on the same side of the road, whichever side that is not a benefit to the driver who changes, nor much benefit to the other driver, but a benefit to everyone else, especially pedestrians and ambulance crews. It's the same for driving projects in organizations. Say an organization has 100 projects and 100 project managers, one running each project. Suppose further that each project manager is very competent and professional but has their own unique way of doing project management. In a rival organization there are also 100 projects, but in that organization there is a standard basic project management methodology. This second organization will have many cost and risk advantages over the first that together add up to a significant advantage in terms of higher customer service and lower overall cost and risk. Some of the specific advantages are as follows:

  • Project managers can work together more easily and with less risk and inefficiency, because they use a common approach, which means that large projects and programmes are easier to plan, manage and execute, and that there is greater flexibility in how staff are deployed.

  • Training new project managers can be standardized, and new project managers will be able to work with experienced managers from an earlier stage.

  • The costs of training new project managers can be reduced through standardization.

  • Sponsors and customers and others who interact with the project interact more efficiently and effectively, both from their own point of view and from the project manager's, because of the commonality between projects.

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Definitive Guide to Project Management. The Fast Track to Getting the Job Done on Time and on Budget
The Definitive Guide to Project Management: The fast track to getting the job done on time and on budget (2nd Edition)
ISBN: 0273710974
EAN: 2147483647
Year: 2007
Pages: 217
Authors: Sebastian Nokes
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