Project Practitioners > Competence and Complacency: A Project Manager’s Friend and Foe

Competence and Complacency: A Project Manager’s Friend and Foe

By Jerry Perone

In this week's blog, I'd like to deliver on a promise I made last week, to offer a breakthrough in thought leadership for project management. This is a piece of advice that is often overlooked and frequently endangers projects - do not get complacent. It sounds simple, but it isn't. What I share here is based on 40 years of PM experience.

I've been lucky enough to serve as a project manager on great teams at places like IBM and with the consulting companies I've owned. I have reviewed hundreds of troubled projects. Some projects were huge, worth millions, and others were smaller. The one consistency I noticed is that the root cause among troubled projects was project management incompetence often fueled by complacency. By that, I mean PMs failed to follow the basic fundamentals of project management.

For example, I never saw a network diagram and a critical path on a troubled project. I never saw a lack of tracking the actuals against the project plan on a troubled project. What I have noticed is that on troubled project PMs had sometimes typed over the planned start and planned finish dates with the actuals. They put themselves in a position to lose the total visibility of SPI & CPI type data.

Troubled projects also seemed to never have any Earned Value Management. My team and I would never see a Work Breakdown Structure on a troubled project, one that was designed with adequate management and control built in. My team and I never saw end-to-end competent risk management on troubled projects. Most of the time, we only saw a list of high level risks. But they were all too high to do anything about. And they never had response plans.

To use an example, it doesn’t help if a PM team identifies a risk as "resources that may not be available." What can you do about that? Not much… but I’ve seen that level of explanation. Now suppose it says, "Software test planning resources may not be available during the weeks of January 1 to March 12.” That is a specific risk you can fix.

The lesson here is to never let complacency creep into your projects. Many of the problems mentioned here result from not taking basic fundamental project management steps. If you want to improve your project performance, make sure you and your PMs are applying the fundamentals.

Just as professional football players practice blocking and tackling every day, baseball players practice hitting and catching, PMs must make engrain the fundamentals of their profession into every action they take on a project.

Remember, competence over complacency, ensure you take fundamental action, and your project success will climb.

Have fun,

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