A system is vital to managing anything effectively and efficiently. Projects are no exception. There needs to be a system in your project, and at the very least both the sponsor and the project manager need to understand the system and agree on it. The following case study shows why the sponsor and project manager must agree on the basics of the system to be used for project management in their project.
A project management system need not be large and complicated, and certainly should not be bureaucratic. The most important thing is that the sponsor and project manager agree on what the system is, or they can even start by agreeing that there is no system and that they will develop one as they go along. It is also perfectly good to say 'We will use the Company's standard project management system' or 'We will use the Company's standard project management system but adapt it as necessary for the needs of this particular project'. Whether you document adaptations or not is of course up to you, but again the project manager and sponsor should agree, in order to avoid wastage by, for example, the project manager documenting where the project will differ in its system from the company's standard when the sponsor sees no need. The kind of thing that needs to be surfaced and discussed, to continue with that example, is if the project intends to take many other people into the project team from the same organization at a later stage, then having documentation of how the project management system differs from the company standard will save much time and risk in inducting those people into the project.
One of the standard methodologies for project management, such as the PMBOK one which is followed in this book, can save much time and effort by providing much, but not all, of a project management system. However, the golden rule in project management is to focus on being effective: pick something that works and be prepared to bend, break and chop up existing standards and approaches to get it right for your project (within the constraints of your organization's policy, of course). One very successful project manager eschewed all specialist project management methodology and based his system on the 1980s edition of the British Army's Platoon Commander's Aide Memoire. It worked for him. By all accounts he was a pain to work for, and the women who worked for him complained that they felt they were actually in the army in his platoon, but the fact is that his projects ran well and even the women who worked for him respected him. Conversely, there are people who score top marks in all the project management training and tests of methodologies yet who could not run a successful project if their lives depended on it. Find a system that works and stick to it, and develop it as you go.
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