Shedding light on myths that mystify project management

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WilmaRoos2010.jpgThere are a number of myths about project management being perpetuated by uncertain and weary users within the marketplace.

An irrefutable fact about Project Management is that it is the only cost-, time- and quality-effective way of implementing change to any environment in a structured, focused way.

Myth 1: Project management is a new discipline

In fact, project management is ages old – but the introduction of a formalized, scientific approach, using multiple disciplines to optimise the process, has fuelled the notion that it is new.

Myth 2: Project management is an expensive investment

The truth is that unplanned and unmonitored projects cost companies a fortune in re-work, the fall-out of dissatisfaction with the results or outputs or outcomes – not to mention duplication in effort between projects!

Project management is thought to be costly because the addition of the cost of a professional Project Manager to that of a project certainly represents an additional expense. However, failure to deliver projects on time and within budget and/or with the required level of quality costs companies far more.

Myth 3: Project management is a tedious, paper-intensive process.

Aside from poor, ineffective planning as a common reason for project management failure, there is a perception that the project management process is arduous, difficult to follow and paper-intensive.  This is often due to following a ‘big bang’ approach for all projects, or simply just adopting an off-the-shelf method and tool and blindly enforcing all the aspects thereof. This results in project management being discarded and the old ‘we know what we’re doing… just get on with the job’ approach to implementing projects.

Organizations that successfully implement Project Management take the time to adapt standard methodologies to their specific requirements, clearly distinguishing between compulsory- and optional deliverables. During this process, the trade-off between sound principles and practical execution is the main criterion.

Myth 4: Project management is all about software tools.

There are a number of reasons why tools are perceived to be the solution. Firstly an investment in tools exclusively is less expensive than implementing a structured strategy, approach, methods, training and competent people. Secondly, tools provide good reports and formats and are embedded with many of the principles of project management.

In order to implement Project Management tools effectively, it is critically important to position these tools as enablers of the strategy, and not visa versa.

Myth 5: There is no need for contingency planning on projects.

This myth has come about as a result of management/sponsors and/or clients not actively managing the project’s planning assumptions, as well as a reluctance to add a potential, realistic amount of money to the “best case” budget and schedule.

Typical examples of things that can (and do) deviate from original planning are natural disasters, changes to legislation, or even something as simple as a flu epidemic amongst team members.

The truth is that if management and sponsors do not allow realistic planning with quantified contingency related to risks, all experienced project managers hide it into the original planning. Projects are then seemingly delivered within budget, ahead of schedule and according to expected quality, but in reality the “hidden” contingency did provide for these unforeseen circumstances. 

The disadvantage of hiding contingency planning and formal risk and issue management is that the organization does not learn by any of these “hidden” factors, and their future projects will bump into the same problems.

Myth 6: Project management slows down the process of delivery.

Management often believes it is faster to deliver projects in an unstructured environment, with a ‘just get on with the job’ strategy. Unfortunately, this always results in more work, unsatisfactory outputs/outcomes, resistance to change, slipping schedules, exceeded budgets and other problematic consequences.

In conclusion

Dispelling myths is about creating efficiency. In an environment where effective Project Management has been implemented the upfront pressure on resources, time and planning is accepted and approved. 

The work is planned and executed in two categories, above the line which means that project management should not impede delivery; and below the line which refers to execution of the plan by the team

If this approach is followed, time will be saved during execution, because who does what and when is clearly defined from the outset (roles & responsibilities, interdependencies, critical paths)

Furthermore quality standards dictate the delivery – there are no unnecessary tasks in the plan (neither above- nor below the line) that does not add direct value to the deliverables

Expectations are actively managed – even if they change over time (scope changes), they are either deferred or included in the project in a structured fashion. Procurement is optimised – enablers / raw materials are procured just in time.

In addition, there are no nasty surprises during execution due to lack of understanding, as team up skilling/proper orientation regarding the project plan, -methods, -expected quality, -client environment & expectations is done upfront.

If this strategy is adopted and process followed, the result is minimal rework, optimum effect on operations, and a significant boost to revenue generation.

Article written by Wilma Roos, Project Management Subject Matter Expert, triVector

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