Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Project Performance – It’s time to Step out of the PM Cockpit

In our industry today we have a broad range of methods and processes to help us manage projects, and there is no question we have seen significant advantages through their implementation. Yet most everyone will agree that project performance is lower than we need and/or expect. There is something missing and I confident it has little to do with our formal project management processes.

It’s time to get back to basics, back down to the projects individual contributor level and see how project execution is doing there. I believe the individual level interactions have been unintentionally ignored and left behind due to a focus on the higher-level project. Consider the possibility that the project management emphasis may not be providing full value to the individual contributors needs for success on their project contributions. Could it be that all the team participants are not clear on their specific contribution to a project? Based on my work with a variety of teams over the years, the clarity of individual requirements is definitely an issue with most.

Are we truly addressing the individual participants needs in our formal project management practices? Project management methods tend to place emphasis on managing projects as a system, allowing individual interactions to remain out of view. This can leave the project open to individuals being self guided as to how they need to deliver the specific details of their tasks, a strategy that is fraught with task rework. A question that must be answered honestly is who is minding the individual expectations for a project? Technical leads, project managers or the individuals themselves?

Bear in mind that at any point in time during a projects execution an individual is either creating or receiving something for a specific project task. Optimal project performance will result only where there is perfect alignment between what is being delivered and what is required for each task, at the individual contributor level. Such an important alignment can’t possibly be left to chance.

If a new level of project performance is an objective it may be time for us to step out of the project management cockpit and gain the individuals perspective on what may not be working well. We must talk to project contributors and consider each individuals requirements for optimal performance of their activities. Are they clear on their specific project contribution? Do they see a deficiency that generates waste or confusion? Is there some additional information that would help them execute? If a heightened level of project performance is the objective, team members will have solutions; we must provide a forum where they can be heard and be prepared to act upon what we learn.

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