We are quickly approaching a point at which over half of the workforce will be comprised of millennials. I’ve had more than one seasoned project manager tell me that young people don’t do project management. From what I’ve seen, they just don’t do it like more seasoned project managers do project management.
Millennials manage plenty of projects. They get them done, or they don’t. And they move on to the next big thing. And despite a heavy reliance on their cell phones, many are using paper-based tools to manage their lives and their work.
Part of the reason that they don’t embrace real project management may be that they don’t see the need or the benefit. They haven’t lost a million, or ten, because their project failed. And the proliferation of project management software tools does little to help them understand the fundamentals of real project management. Most of them are used to more Agile thinking – even if they don’t know it.
So, why do we need real project management now more than ever?
Before I explain why, it’s important to understand what I mean by real project management. Many of the leading project management software solutions do little to address the considerations that trained project managers follow. Real project management is much more than project collaboration, scheduling, or task management.
Real project management, that is, the Smart Projex approach, focuses first on how we are starting the project. What is the compelling vision or need for this project investment? What benefits will be realized from this investment? What is most important to management and/or the client – scope, cost, schedule, risks, quality? What is NOT going to be done? Real project management considers factors such as quality, risk, issue, stakeholder, money, communications, scope, and change management, along with lessons learned tracking.
Here are my top reasons for believing in the need for real project management.
Over 40% of organizations do not understand or appreciate the importance of project management.
According to the 2018 Pulse of the Profession Report, issued annually by the Project Management Institute, “the importance of fully valuing project management cannot be emphasized enough; organizations that undervalue project management as a strategic competency for driving change report an average of 50% more of their projects failing outright.”
While PMI notes improvement, we’re still wasting about 10% of all project investments.
I hesitate to think too long about what the global dollar value on wasted project investments might be. Trillions, I would guess. Maybe more…. And while innovation requires us to try things that fail, how much of this money could be put to greater use if we were really managing our projects?
Popular project management tools do little to address the primary causes of project failure.
Also included in the 2018 Pulse of the Profession Report is the following chart.
This chart speaks volumes. Think about how your organization is doing project management. Or not. Ask yourself if the tools that you are using address the root causes of failure.
Note: A Smart Start goes a long way towards addressing the top four reasons for project failure.
There are different opinions about the role that teams and project managers play in the project initiation phase. (FYI, the first phase of a project is the initiation phase – which originates in senior leadership when the need for the project is first being discussed.) Some say that teams should stick to the basics of scope, schedule and cost management and let senior leadership be responsible for initiating projects. I argue that in these days of rapid change, we need to think differently.
In this world, project requirements will change.
But that doesn’t necessarily translate into project failure. We must look for scope changes that make sense. What have we learned that might help us do the project activity a better way? Is there scope that we need to cut or add? You don’t know what you don’t know. So, we owe it to ourselves and our organizations to think proactively about how to make change work to our advantage.
The people who are doing your projects want their time used wisely.
We need to rethink resource management. I’ve written about that here. It’s time to realize that much has changed since the 1950’s.
Portfolio dashboards that include all project investments would improve executive decision making.
When I look at the above chart of reasons for project failures, many of them could be addressed with solid dashboard analytics. But when some teams are using Gantt charts, some are using Agile methods, some are using hybrid approaches, and some aren’t using much at all, it’s hard to get good data analytics. I’ve written about the challenges of project portfolios here.
A world of rapid change, uncertainty, and complexity requires REAL project management.
For most projects today, we cannot simply create a Gantt chart and execute according to the plan.
There are simply too many unknowns. Teams in well-established businesses are having to think like start-ups – constantly pivoting, and re-examining product-market fit, user feedback, and next steps. So, why spend so much time on project requirements?
It is far more important that we focus on the people, communications, risks and issues, costs, and lessons learned. We shouldn’t even wait until the end to think about lessons learned. What did you learn in that meeting with the client that will inform your next steps?
If you have set up your project well, and I have written about that often, it’s not too hard. But it does require that we rethink how we do project management. It means real project management. And part of that requires that we rethink what failure means. It’s entirely possible to delight a client with a successful outcome that was not initially scoped well, and to come in over budget and behind schedule. I’ve seen it happen.