Effective Project Management can make perfect sense on paper. Logic, clarity and predictability are like that. Even risk can be identified and managed with reasonable certitude when you theoretically control the circumstances. Then you insert the human factor, and . . . .
Ah, the human factor. Sounds so manageable when you say it that way – sort of a verbal cardboard cutout with depersonalization of “human” and the emphasis on “factor.” As a matter of brutal fact, too many managers follow the Paul Simon dictum, “A man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest.”
Truth is, people even at their best are the least predictable of the resources available to the manager. Someone who is a star performer today can be a flat tire in the operation tomorrow, depending upon utterly unpredictable personal, family, health, financial, mood influences.
When that happens, there can be radical effects on results. The resources of cost (salary), time (work schedule), materials, equipment, facilities and everything else remain completely unchanged. The bad effect occurs solely because the human being has performed differently. That catalytic resource – the person – gives dynamic meaning to all those other resources, and is the dominant determinant of the outcome.
As in everything else, what is true in ordinary organized human activity is more so in Project Management, because a Project is organized human activity in a pressure cooker. You don’t have the luxury of seemingly plentiful time. Your resources are sparingly, perhaps grudgingly, often inadequately doled out from stores originally anticipated elsewhere.
Most importantly, your people are loaned from permanent organizational functions whose managers are not above tugging them back to serve contrary priorities.
In short, management of this human being thing makes or breaks the Project Manager. And the most serious challenge in doing so is bounded by the end of his/her nose.