Posted on May 16th, 2013 in - Kathy Martucci, Constraints, Lessons Learned, Project Management, Projects, Requirements, Scope | No Comments »
by Kathy Martucci, PMP
Picture this: a roomful of disappointed and barely civil executives are intently focused on you. The one-page briefing you have prepared seems woefully inadequate to answer their questions and address the situation. It’s embarrassing, humiliating and perhaps career-ending.
At this moment, you are asking yourself why you chose project management as that career.
Rewind: four months ago. The same executives gather with smiling, relaxed faces to discuss an initiative that appears, on its surface, to be a quick hit. #1 Executive has promised a live demonstration of the deliverable to The Board at its annual meeting in 3 months.
No problem. Plenty of time. Shouldn’t take too much effort. The Board members will be so impressed they will no doubt vote in our favor for the funds requested. Oh, we know you have “those other” projects in play. You are such an accomplished project manager; you can do this part time.
In spite of your misgivings and a nagging little voice in the back of your head, you (of course) take on the project. After all, the last time you looked, #1 Executive is at the top of the organization chart. And you aren’t. And this is “just” pulling together something that is already there. “Just” jot down the tasks needed and get going.
In three weeks, there are so many questions about scope, the team (ok, one PTP – part-time programmer) is at a virtual standstill. You request a meeting of the stakeholders, but #1 Executive is preparing the financial statements for The Big Board Meeting. You can’t get on the calendar.
In four weeks, PTP leaves for a month-long visit to his family whom he hasn’t seen in 2 years. You resort to engaging the junior programmer who needs at least a week to get up to speed.
In eight weeks, a brief sit-down with #1 Executive gives you insight into the composition of the (real) final deliverable. But this time you speak up: It’s unrealistic that the ideal could be delivered in another month, especially to so critical an audience. Let us go back to the office and rework the requirements. We will meet in 2 days to present what we CAN deliver.
In 2 days, #1 Executive is unavailable to review the new deliverable. You and the PTP go down that road anyway despite lack of direction from the top. In a week, when you finally do meet, #1 reluctantly agrees to the reduced scope. Frown lines begin to appear.
You get the picture. At the Board meeting, the demonstration goes poorly and the Board members are less than impressed. #1 Executive loudly and clearly blames the project manager and leaves without the necessary funds for the pet initiative.
Back to the Future: the post-mortem. The case above contains so many pitfalls of managing a small project it’s difficult to pinpoint the #1 mistake. So, let’s focus on lessons learned.
In the future, you strongly suggest that the organization will:
- Establish quantitative criteria for small, medium and large projects
- Use the criteria to recognize when the organization is about to engage on a project
- Ensure better support and participation of executives in small and medium projects
- Use an approved, scalable framework to ensure adequate planning of all projects
- Proceed to the execution phase of a project only after passing a planning gate
These are high level guidelines to address shortcomings of the Project Management Methodology employed at the organization especially for smaller engagements. Can you identify the specifics of the case that led to the Debacle?