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How not to do Project Management

Not so much a recipe for disaster, more a five-course menu

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Be right all the time

And a word on allocating human resource. Many PMs report that more is not always better. The more people you have in a team the more the complexity of managing the team increases. Focus on choosing the best people with good communication skills and teamworking ability rather than the fastest workers. Estimating is an art. Regular review is essential for realistic budgeting.

4. You must be right all the time

Leadership of a large project pits the PM at the centre of the operation. The temptation is to make yourself the resident guru for the whole project. Big mistake. You may be intent on success, but that doesn't mean having to be right all the time.

Your satisfaction is often in making a huge difference, succeeding in your plan (perhaps against huge odds), and increasing your reputation and experience. If you can swallow your pride and those around you bask in the glory it is unlikely to be forgotten. Leadership is about team morale and few things go down so well as being appreciated for work well done. Meanwhile those in charge are more likely to want to use your skills again if you have made them look competent.

Many PMs report that theirs is a somewhat thankless task that places them in an unusual political position. You have power and influence but everyone knows it will disappear in a puff of smoke once the project is over. That transient power is a difficult mantle which can only be worn with great skill and diplomacy, plus the subtle use of carrot and stick when appropriate.

Geoff Reiss, author of Project Management Demystified, sums up the situation in the book's introduction: "Success in a project is NOT proportional to success in project management. All those heavy tomes on project management totally ignore this simple fact." He points out that a large part of the job lies in the art of avoiding problems, using the analogy of a ship's captain constantly on the bridge on the lookout for icebergs and floating containers.

5. Project planning is a shared responsibility

PM gurus agree more on this subject than any other. The key to good practice is planning, planning, planning.

This from Peter Mayer, managing partner at PM consultancy Pelicam: "There is a fundamental need for PMs to accept their responsibility to understand what is planned and how it is planned, and to take responsibility for its accuracy, control and publication.

"Practically all organisations now have a defined method and template for project initiation. Many still struggle to achieve the level of granularity and precision to build a view of the project that guarantees success.

"Some projects employ ‘planning jockeys’ who know a software application well enough to create complex Pert/Gantt charts, dependency networks and so on – showing a tendency to abdicate responsibility rather than plan a project. It is equally unreasonable to blame these project planners when things go awry. "

Tom Foulkes, director general, Institute of Civil Engineers, concurs. "I have learned through the years that the planning phase is absolutely essential for getting a clear and shared vision of the goals of the project. Without that you are asking for trouble," he says.

But of course the best laid plans… which brings us to risk evaluation and management. There will be more on that later. ®

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