What this blog is about

 

Over the past 10 years many studies have been conducted which show conclusively that the majority of IT/IS projects do not meet the standard definition of success. In fact, according to several studies conducted and updated by the Standish Group, less than 30% of IT/IS projects are successfully completed within the proposed timeframe and budget and/or with the requisite functionality. This same study states that jeopardized projects, roughly 70% of all IT/IS projects, cost US companies and the Government upwards of $154 Billion annually.

I recently conducted a search on Barnes and Noble’s website for books on Project Management. My results included nearly 4000 current titles. I was amazed that there were so many recently published books on the subject. But I was more amazed at the fact that in spite of all this available information less than 30% of projects are successful. To me it seemed clear that either no one was buying the books, a doubtful conclusion since they probably wouldn’t have been published if there wasn’t a verifiable audience waiting to purchase them, or the information contained in these books did nothing to help projects succeed. So, while I certainly didn’t review each title, I did a random sampling and found that the majority of these books talk either about the process of project management and the tools that are used or the methodology of the month that seems to be generating the most buzz. These topics are what I refer to as the Science of Project management.

What these many books fail to talk about is what I call the ‘Art of Project Management’ or the softer side of project management. It is this “Art of Project Management’ that I believe, based on over a decade of experience, separates the ‘Truly Great Project Manager’ from the mediocre or accidental project manager.

When I refer to the ‘Art of Project Management’ I am talking about inter and intra departmental relationship building, political savvy, interpersonal assessment skills, ownership orientation, personnel motivation, strategic influence and open-honest communication.

It is these softer skills which differentiate the artisans of the trade of Project Management from the average workaday practitioners. As far as I’m concerned, there doesn’t even need to be formal training in the science part of project management since there are so many references available – not just books but websites, newsletters, multi-media presentation, etc. However, there is a seriously pent-up need for training in the softer skills of PM. It seems that somewhere along the way, we forgot that while IT/IS projects certainly deal with technology and its development or application to solve problems, ultimately projects are made up of people.

Technology is relatively easy to control, you tell it what you need it to do and it either does it or it doesn’t. Either way technology is fairly binary. People, on the other hand, don’t come pre-programmed to do what they are told when they are told. It is dealing with, leading, motivating and developing people that is the biggest challenge for Project Managers and the most important aspect of the job. Sadly, it is also the most overlooked aspect of Project Management texts, classes, and seminars.

Most IS/IT projects require the input from and interaction with multiple departments or groups within a company or organization. As project managers it is our responsibility to bring these disparate groups together and focus them on a single goal. This can be an enormous challenge especially in organizations where different departments have different or competing priorities. It is our responsibility to instill in all the members of the project team a unified sense of mission.

These skills are not taught or even mentioned by the Project Management Institute or the Software Engineering Institute. They are not part of the process of certification as a Project Management Professional and they are mentioned only in passing, if at all, at the many seminars offered on the subject of Project Management.

Emerson said that, “Our chief want in life is someone who will make us do what we can.” The most integral part of any project is the people who are involved in doing the work whether it is writing code, performing analysis, providing requirements, giving approval, testing, planning or marketing the end product. Yet the skills needed to bring all of these people together, to get them to accomplish more as a team than they could on their own, to get them to accomplish more than they thought they could, these crucial skills are not taught. No wonder so many projects fail. It is a wonder that almost 30% of them succeed.

This blog will talk about these softer skills and how they have helped me bring myriad projects to successful completion for my customers and clients. I am committed to helping revolutionize the ‘practice’ of project management and, in turn, returning some of that $154 billion to the shareholders of American companies.

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