Ignore your environment – or how to set up your project for failure
We all know that we live in an interdependent world. This is common sense. And yet again the proverb that common sense is not common practice holds true. Recently I observed a project which was headed by an expert in his field. He knew the business inside out, nurtured a strong network in the industry. It was no big surprise that he was asked to lead the technical division of a new service offering of the company. Alas, as much as he knew about the new product and services, he lacked a common project management understanding. He was so convinced of his own expertise that he willingly ignored the project environment. He defined his agenda and followed it. He didn’t bother asking other people for their opinion. This time he had the chance to prove the world that not only did he understand the business part of the service he also want to show that he knew the technical aspects and how to set up a highly efficient and yet effective technical infrastructure in record time.
There was nothing wrong with this motivation. As a matter of fact following a vision is a noble thing. IFF it is shared by others. Even more important, IFF the vision is built by those who are involved. Unfortunately this was not the case. The project manager did not share his vision openly, he withheld information from others, dictated his immediate „team“ members what to do and micromanaged every step.
The project progressed according to plan. At least this what his belief and perception were. Until the first delivery to a sub-team which had to specify and implement „his“ solution. The feedback of this sub-team gave about the concepts submitted to them was devestating. Little if anything was deemed valuable for implementation. It was a mess. It became apparent that the scope was far from being defined, even less approved and shared by all stakeholders. The project came to a point where it was up to management to decide whether to go ahead nevertheless and fail or to step back for a second and think how to clean up the mess.
The good news was that the latter was the case. The sub-team invited the project team to walk through every scope item of the project phase, estimated the effort and planned accordingly. Project work could start anew. Only this time it was based on a common agreed upon scope and project plan. The first release of the new service was delivered on time. Alas, it was far from the originally thought scope of the project manager.
There were quite a few things the project manager did wrong. As mentioned at the outset of this post, interdependence is not a mere buzz word. It is reality. You are foolish if you ignore it. In the case descriped the project manager and the whole project would have faired much better if the project manager would have spent his energy on building a common vision, sharing information and winning the necessary support for his ideas. Instead, he saved his energy for his own agenda, got lost in political power struggles he set up and in the process set up the project for failure.
Interdependence is all around us. Open your eyes, identify your playing field and players and involve them. For the better of the project. For this what a good project manager does – care for his project and team members and not follow his own agenda.