After fifteen years in programme and project management, I have finally figured out that the thing I enjoy most about the profession is the variety. No two initiatives are ever the same and every experience has been different. It is hard to define a single “template” for a project (which is ironic when you think of the number of templates you find in project management) but there are consistent themes that underpin all of these experiences.
Here are some of my favourite project management themed “movies”:
Reservoir Logs – Imagine having them all lined up in front of you. “You...you’re Mr Risk; you’re Mr Issue; you, you’re Mr Dependency”. Each control document plays a unique yet similarly aligned role in the successful heist of a project. Miss out one and the whole team fails. And maybe you could say that there is something a little intimidating about all of these control registers lining up in front of you but they are a necessary aspect of control in a challenging environment.
Principles – Focus on Products
Themes – Progress, Risks, Quality
Plan’s Labyrinth – Is planning really such a kaleidoscope of confusion, vague imagery and underlying threats? Yes there is a journey for every project to undergo in order to achieve its goals and objectives...but should we be so intimidated by the very processes and techniques designed to guide us along the journey? I have certainly worked on changes that had felt like navigating a mythical, abandoned maze…
Principles – Manage by Exception, Manage by Stages
Themes – Plans
The Justification League – Okay, this one isn’t due for release until Late 2017 but anyone who has ever had to take a business case or Cost Benefits Analysis [CBA] through a corporate governance process – especially for an agile implementation that is more flexible than the rigid protocols of corporate governance – will get the reference. It does take a team of superheroes, each with their own special powers such as financial management and business modelling, to pull together a heroic effort to save the day.
Principles – Continued Business Justification
Themes – Business Case
City of Change-ls – An oldie but still a popular romance and what is more romantic than the nostalgia that comes with dealing with change (after all, the movie itself deals with one of the biggest changes in life, death itself). The very idea that rules are made to be broken is a core principle and the reason why so much effort is put into successfully managing exceptions and changes to scope, requirements, quality expectations. The important thing is to not let sentimentality interfere with the progress of change, instead to manage the expectations of those impacted the most by it.
Principles – Manage by Exception
Themes – Change
Role Models – David Wain’s 2008 comedy was all about two men who are completely inappropriate role models for a bunch of kids. When I have defined my project governance structures and identified the key stakeholders involved in the governance of the project, I can honestly say that I have been blessed with the right people in the right roles (but I bet some Project Managers out there would have very different stories to tell).
Principles – Defined Roles & Responsibilities
Themes – Organisation
Okay so this is a bit of a fun aide memoire but it does go to show you that the fundamentals of project management are not strange, mysterious arts that you are unable to classify or comprehend. The core themes, principles and practices of project management are in fact very simple and can be easily translated into familiar concepts. Take something like Configuration Management, which some view as overly complex methods of quality control: break it down to the basics and it can be as simple as the role of a librarian managing a stock of books.
The serious message here is that there is a tendency to make project management appear complex, sometimes with the intention of justifying its need (after all, if it is so complicated that you need a suite of formal qualifications and practitioner assessments, it must be difficult). By breaking down these myths and finding an innovative way to approach the important aspects of project management, you can end up having a lot of fun while delivering an blockbuster of a change.