Thursday, June 19, 2014

Reconstructing Project Management (4 of 9)

Should there be, resources allowing (personnel, funds), one [senior] person responsible for, and in charge of, the project from beginning-to-end?  (What does ‘beginning-to-end’ really mean?)

Morris, Peter.  Reconstructing Project Management Reprised: A Knowledge Perspective.  Project Management Journal, Vol. 44, No. 5, October 2013, p13.  © 2013 by the Project Management Institute
Well, yes, of course.  And with that I could be done with this post.

This is the fourth in my series of posts commenting on nine questions that Peter Morris asked in his October article in Project Management Journal.


The underlying intent of this question is, of course, much more complex and involved than a literal reading of the question indicates.

Morris, if I can presume to speak for him here, is implying that what we call project managers are only responsible for the tactical delivery of the project execution (monitor and control), but should be responsible for the strategic up-front initiation.  What I don’t know is if he believes that the Executive Vice-President of Finance, who currently has those up-front responsibilities, should be labeled the project manager or just that the PM should be seated at the table when the EVP is thinking about initiating this project.  I think realistic practice is that neither of those will (generally) happen any more than a department manager, who should be at the table when the executives are determining strategy for that department, will be there.  (Though it may evolve that the Chief Project Officer (CPO) of the enterprise of the future is at the table.)

In a top-down, command-and-control organization, someone at the top decides something needs to be done, when they need it done by, how much they’re willing to spend to get it done, and, in many cases, various levels of detail about how it will be done.  That executive who was there when the decision was made to start the project is  responsible and considers the project benefit to them, so they don’t want someone else getting the credit for the project’s success.  At the same time, that executive delegates, as they should, the tactical, day-to-day, delivery responsibilities of the project to someone who is qualified for that role and purpose.  I’m sure it’s only coincidental that the executive now has a scapegoat if the project goes south (we had a great plan that showed it was a major benefit;  it was only the delivery that failed).
So, executives should be held responsible just like bankers should’ve been responsible (i.e., paid the price) for the real estate collapse and financial meltdown, presidents should be held responsible for failed police actions and nation building across the globe, and officers shouldn’t get huge bonuses when their companies perform in the toilet.

I’m not being cynical (though I’m expressing cynicism with a broad, thick, dripping brush).  In fact, that is the reality of political maneuvering and a demonstration of the skills that successful people have and are able to apply.  If we called that top person a project manager and made them responsible, they’d still hire someone else for the delivery, delegate that responsibility to them and then take credit for the successful project while assigning responsibility for failure on the delivery technician, by whatever title.  Label the boxes what you will, it doesn’t change the results.
The bottom line is that I’m responsible for monitoring and controlling a project (which implies relative to a plan).  Delivering a result, a solution, a product or a service is not project management, whether it’s for an on-going operation or a temporary endeavor.  Those things can be done without project management (e.g., CMMI).

Something is a project if and only if there’s a plan for delivering it and there is monitoring and controlling relative to that plan.  The project manager is the person doing that monitoring and controlling, generally as a delegee on someone else’s behalf.
That’s what I do.

© 2014 Chuck Morton.  All Rights Reserved.

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