I was talking with a colleague today. We are working on a project and our discussion turned to the mechanics and practice of project management. We are collaborating on a new curriculum in project management and were reviewing a specific course outline. The course will cover the project management life cycle of Initiating, Planning, Executing, Monitoring and Controlling and Closing (also known by the acronym IPEMCC). As we completed our review, we were discussing the process of closing a project. We came to an easy agreement that closing a project, even a phase, is an ad-hoc event because we are finished. Aren’t we!
Tongue in cheek, I referred the practice of ad-hoc project management as ‘Drive by Project Management (DBPM).’ We both laughed and finished our call.
The more that I thought about the call, the more it seemed that ‘Drive by Project Management’ is what many people experience on an hourly or daily basis. In fact, sometimes it feels like minute by minute. Project management is practiced in varying degrees by individuals based on ‘what management deems project management to be.’ There seems to be a broad and global misunderstanding of what project management is, where is it should be practiced, when it is important, why it is done and who is responsible for project outcomes. The operative word in the term project management is management. The intense focus on the word project is the root cause of DBPM.
Symptoms of ‘Drive by Project Management’ are
- Planning is only encouraged when the project is in serious trouble. When you are asked what you are doing and you respond the team is working on the project management plan, are you told ‘get to work? We need to get this product out the door. You are wasting time working on constraints, risks, issues, assumptions, scope’ … I could go on. Congratulations, you have experienced Drive by Project Management and you weren’t even the initiator.
- The schedule is only as current as the day it was created. The project manager is using Microsoft Excel® to make sure that the dates don’t change. After all, we wouldn’t want to tell the sponsor the way it is. It might involve work to get the project back on track. Congratulations, you just used a Drive by Project Management technique. Shame on you.
- You capitulate at the first sign of stress and agree that it isn’t necessary to do the risk identification and analysis sessions. After all, this is a risk-free project. It is too small to be risky. Well, a small, risk-free project and a swindler will get you free land in a swamp somewhere. Congratulations, you just subjected your team to Drive by Project Management. Worse, you put your team at risk.
- The easiest way to update a schedule is to just use the % Complete option to make it look like the team is accomplishing great gobs of work. In fact, the tasks are behind schedule, poorly resourced and there are tasks where the start date is day one of the project. And! Day 1 was 3 months ago. Congratulations, you are subjecting your sponsor to Drive by Project Management. Only this option will catch you in the end but it could put the team and the organization at risk.
- You practice deception and sow discord wherever you go. In fact, if the team is fighting each other or you, you can make yourself indispensible. After all, if they think ‘you are a complete waste of skin’, they are the problem. You think you have the moral high ground. You only work with the stakeholder you like and all others beware. Congratulations, you are using Drive by Project Management to put the organization at risk. People will start to leave. You might have won but the organization will lose intellectual property (what is in the head of people who leave isn’t easily retrieved), could be subjected to harassment charges, and you will eventually be shown the door.
- You recommend a new tool to manage projects. My absolute favourite recommendation is ‘let’s buy Tool A because Microsoft Project® can’t be used on big projects.’ What a load of bunk! Any tool that you use without a supporting process will fail. Tools don’t manage projects, PEOPLE do. Congratulations, your arrogance has just caused a very expensive Drive by Project Management event. Buying the tool is only the start. You have created a monster that will cost the company money and you- your integrity. Enjoy your moment in the sun. People will use what they know and what is easy to use. Excel®! Anyone!
The golden nugget is ‘as project management professionals, it is our responsibility to practice our profession. No one will give us permission to practice our craft. We have to have enough confidence in our skills, knowledge and experience to do what is right and do it right the first time. We must defend our professional deliverables as value-added to the project, the stakeholders and by default the organization.’
The lesson is that there is a cartoon in here somewhere. We could have frames where the project team has something lobbed at them over the wall and they react predictably. For those of you that read Dilbert®, it is what life is like more often than not. As project managers, we can contribute in a health and well-being of our team by being consistent in practice of our profession.
The bottom line is:
We are the people responsible for promoting the consistent application of project management. There is no one else to do it. It is up to us.
If you are feeling brave, add your Drive by Project Management moments and we’ll add them to a blog in the future.