If you’ve worked on a project that has delivered what it set out to deliver, when you set out to deliver it, you will be familiar with the euphoric feeling this guy is expressing. Unfortunately, for all too many PMs and business leaders this outcome feels like an impossible dream.
Through my work on complex projects I’ve learnt that balancing three key elements is essential if you are to get to successful delivery. I’ve coined these elements “the 3Ps of successful project delivery”:
People are at the heart of every project. The outcome of your project impacts people; decisions are made by people; people choose to support or resist your project; people make things happen or block progress. Excellent project managers know that they will be spending a significant amount of their time building relationships with, listening to and understanding the people in their project. The sponsor, the delivery teams, the key stakeholders: these relationships allow the PM to shape the project, monitor progress and unblock problems more effectively – all essential to successful delivery.
Most project managers love processes and they are essential. Your project must have a plan – a way to show how you will get from here to there; you must understand your risks and key issues and how you will deal with them; you must be able to report on progress BUT and it’s a big but, this alone is not project management. No project ever delivered because it had a beautiful, perfect plan. No project can be managed from behind a desk. Dwight D Eisenhower famously said that “plans are useless but planning is indispensable”. While I wouldn’t go that far I agree with the sentiment. The planning stage is essential but focussing purely on your plan leads to rigidity and a risk that you lose touch with the ‘real life’ project that’s happening around you.
A project that doesn’t progress doesn’t deliver and a project manager who isn’t on top of the progress being (or not being) made in her or his project cannot successfully deliver. Knowing how your project is delivering relies on two key elements – your relationship with the people in your project and the processes you have put in place to plan and monitor. These essential elements together will give you all the information you need on whether your project is developing as it should be and if it isn’t you will be in a strong position to steer it back on course.
Projects are usually complex and often challenging. No solution is quick or easy but building your project management approach on these three core elements, and balancing your time well between them, will give you a strong foundation from which successful delivery can be achieved.
Caroline Doran is a project consultant and coach working with busy senior leaders to turn their strategic ideas into operational realities.