Womb to Tomb: Project Management is the Key

 | November 15,2012 11:30 am IST

Global competition is intensifying in its reach, complexity, pace and impact. To cope with it, organizations require carefully sifted knowledge and its prompt application not only to rescue organizations but to make them succeed.

Project management, as an important harbinger for successful organizations, has been underscored as a catalyst in growth of an organization. Despite several PMP certified professionals making efforts to institutionalize project management into practice, 80% of the projects still fail. Several questions arise: (1) What is responsible for the paradox? (2) Should divergence exist? (3) Can the gap be narrowed? (4) What, indeed, is the goal of project management? An attempt to answer these questions has been made by consolidating a few lessons learnt from a floundered project.

1.     1. Involvement of project manager at all times
In most of the projects it has been observed that the project manager delegates responsibilities to the team members and the role of the project manager becomes limited to tracking status only. This has a heavy bearing on the morale of the team members. The team feels that they alone do the work while the project manager is a mere coordinator. It is a good thing that the project manager does not interfere in the solution design but being with the team in thick and thin adds to the morale of the team.
Project manager should act as a role model and an inspiration for the team to deliver the best.
2.     2. Best of consultants, yet, project suffers
If you take the best pair of hands, the best pair of legs, the best torso and the best head and try to make a human body, it need not necessarily be the best human body. For a human body to function properly, coordination among the various organs is essential. If you have an upset stomach, you can easily feel the uneasiness in other parts of the body as well.
Extending the same logic, it has been observed several times that despite having the best of consultants on board, the project failed. The onus is on the project manager to knit a common thread so that the team is together at all times. Ego clashes are very common when there are star performers in the team, yet, it is very important that the project manager is able to put across the message quite effectively that the team comes before the individual and the project can be successful only if it is a team effort.
In a study carried out in the 90s, it was observed that an average Indian has an IQ higher than an average Japanese but two Japanese working together have been found to achieve more than two Indians working together. The reason has been attributed to team work and putting the team above the individual.
3.     3. Project managers micro management with some of the senior team members
A typical project manager has to deal with people issues on a daily basis. Since there is a humane touch involved here, it is imperative that the project manager stays away from a one size fits all approach. If the team composition consists of a younger lot fresh out of college, some amount of micro management may be necessary as the youngsters are still in the process of getting groomed into the corporate world. But if the same approach is tried with senior team members, there is a high probability of this approach getting backfired. Firstly, as people grow in the organization some amount of ego crops in and secondly, they would have seen the corporate world and understand their responsibilities quite well.

4.     4. Emphasis on KPIs of the project manager and also team members
In any project there are multiple stakeholders and a successful project is one that is able to make a judicious balance. Projects suffer because there are conflicting Key Performance Indicators (KPI) of the project manager and team members. A typical KPI of a project manager is margin and in order to achieve that there are more junior members in the team who are less expensive. While this model works for a standard execution but if the project is a complex one, the need of the hour is experience which goes a long way in resolving majority of the issues.
It typically happens that the timelines are squeezed during the bidding process and once the project starts, the project manager is more interested in completing the project rather than allow the consultants to give a better solution which may not be possible in that time frame.
5.     5. Criticality of project management is under played
Quite often the role of the project manager is undervalued. People typically perceive project management as some sort of a coordinator role. Unfortunately, there is not enough awareness to emphasize the criticality of project management and the role of a project manager. Other than tracking the schedule, a project manager is the thread which binds the team together without which the project is bound to fail. While this may sound clichd, a project manager has the most important responsibility of binding and empowering the team and drive the team towards the goal.