jim@millikenproject.com

jim@millikenproject.com 207-808-8878 Our book "Life is a Project: How are you managing?" is now available!


Monday, May 3, 2010

The Project Manager's Art

How do you get people to do what you want them to do?

This eternal question of human relations has special resonance in the world of Project Management. Sometimes nobody wants to do what needs to be done -- perhaps even the Project Manager who is supposed to be its leader.

Considering the nature of Projects, this disability is understandable. But it's not acceptable. Dealing with it should be up front and on top of the Project Manager's priorities. It often isn't.

Consider the nature of Projects. They are temporary intrusions into the regular order of business. Sometimes they are massive. Always they require individuals to engage in unfamiliar tasks and/or to work with unfamiliar people. This uncomfortable new workload can be in addition to their accustomed activities, perhaps with no reduction in pre-existing expectations. You're supposed to kind of work this new thing in.

Surrounding it all is an aura of uncertainty, since Projects are -- by nature -- risky. No one, including the leadership, is quite sure how to handle this. That's why it's a project -- a complex, multidisciplinary effort to produce an innovation. The quality of the outcome is expected to be high. Oh, and you must use a minimum of resources, including funds and people, and meet a tough deadline.

There are many characterizations of what typically happens in such situations, some of them quite flip. Generally, the point being made is that there's no way this thing will get done anywhere near the deadline. Nor will it have a prayer of meeting budget. And quality? You're lucky if your result has 50 percent of the features or functions you set out to produce.

Well, what happens when things work, despite the odds? While successful Projects are in the minority, there are some. What makes the difference?

Project Management has been described as an art and a science. That's not just an airy remark. It is central to understanding how the Project Manager is to be effective.

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