Avoiding the Project Management Obstacle Course

“The success of any project is crucially dependent on the documents produced for it.” -John Rakos

My worst experiences have been with organisations that stick blindly to the methodology regardless of whether it adds value. “It says you fill in this form at this stage and we’re jolly well going to fill it in.” Then the form invariably gets filed away and never looked at again. This leads to many methodologies being perceived as needlessly bureaucratic, which, when used appropriately they’re not. I’m a great advocate of starting projects well, spending time on the planning phase, defining the scope, assessing the risks and getting stakeholder buy-in. Here the typical project brief adds a great deal of value in terms of establishing clarity in the stakeholders minds as to what the project will and won’t deliver. There lies the important issue; can you demonstrate a clear benefit of having a particular document or process. For organisations to move away from this needlessly bureaucratic project management obstacle course, they must first trust their project managers and make them fully accountable for the project outcome. The project manager must use his discretion, deciding on a project by project basis, what is and isn’t appropriate from any methodology they use. If any element of the methodology has no value, then don’t do it, but be prepared to backup your decision with a well thought out reason. Methodologies are a framework in which to work, not a solution to project management. Spend time to find out what works for you and your organisation, discard what doesn’t and modify what’s left to better fulfil your needs. That way, you will avoid adding unnecessary overhead to projects and having your preferred methodology dismissed as needlessly bureaucratic.

By Duncan Haughey

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