The first rule of project management is that the people who must do the work should help plan it.

The role of the project manager is that of an enabler. Her job is to help the team get the work completed, to “run interference” for the team, to get scarce resources that team members need, and to buffer them from outside forces that would disrupt the work. She is not a project czar. She should be—above all else—a leader, in the truest sense of the word. FUNDAMENTALS OF PROJECT MANAGEMENT

The best definition of leadership that I have found is the one by Vance Packard, in his book The Pyramid Climbers (Crest Books, 1962). He says, “Leadership is the art of getting others to want to do something that you believe should be done.” The operative word here is “want.” Dictators get others to do things that they want done. So do guards who supervise prison work teams. But a leader gets people to want to do the work, and that is a significant difference.

“Leadership is the art of getting others to want to do something that you believe should be done.”


The planning, scheduling, and control of work represent the management or administrative parts of the job. But, without leader- ship, projects tend to just satisfy bare minimum requirements. With FUNDAMENTALS OF PROJECT MANAGEMENT

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leadership, they can exceed those bare minimums. I offer a compre- hensive application of project leadership techniques in Chapter 14.

it is Not Just Scheduling!

One of the common misconceptions about project management is that it is just scheduling. At last report, Microsoft had sold a huge number of copies of Microsoft Project®, yet the project failure rate remains high. Scheduling is certainly a major tool used to manage projects, but it is not nearly as important as developing a shared understanding of what the project is supposed to accomplish or constructing a good work breakdown structure (WBS) to identify all the work to be done (I discuss the WBS in Chapter 7). In fact, without practicing good project management, the only thing a detailed schedule is going to do is allow you to document your failures with great precision! FUNDAMENTALS OF PROJECT MANAGEMENT

I do want to make one point about scheduling software. It doesn’t matter too much which package you select, as they all have strong and weak points. However, the tendency is to give people the software and expect them to learn how to use it without any training. This simply does not work. The features of scheduling software are such that most people don’t learn the subtleties by themselves. They don’t have the time because they are trying to do their regular jobs, and not everyone is good at self-paced learning. You wouldn’t hire a green person to run a complex machine in a factory and put him to work without training because you know he will destroy something or injure himself. So why do it with software?

The Accidental project Manager

Have you been suddenly thrust into the role of managing a project without the title “project manager” or much support? Did you con- sider yourself the project manager and the project team? You are not alone. Increasingly, individuals are managing work that fits the PMBOK® Guide (PMI 3, 2013) definition of a project: “a temporary endeavor undertaken to create a unique product, service, or result.” There is a deadline, a scope of work to define, limited resources, and often a fixed budget. Although less formal and not requiring a project team, these projects must be planned, scheduled, and controlled. An FUNDAMENTALS OF PROJECT MANAGEMENT

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exceptional/acceptable project product must be delivered and the cus- tomer delighted or at least satisfied.

“Essentials of Project Management for the Nonproject Manager” is a seminar that I lead for American Management Association Inter- national. It is very popular and has struck a chord with nontradi- tional project managers, subject matter experts, sponsors, and project contributors. Typical attendees include sales managers, administrative professionals, marketing managers, procurement specialists, and many other business types. It seems that everyone is involved with projects on some level. These attendees are not project managers in the tradi- tional sense but must manage projects. Project management tools can help. I like to tell my attendees that project tools are universal but the value is evident in how the tools are applied. FUNDAMENTALS OF PROJECT MANAGEMENT

First, assess the work. Are you constrained by scope, cost, and lim- ited resources? Do you have a deadline? Then commit to managing the work as a project. Determine which project tools would be appro- priate. For example, a project with a deadline of two weeks requires far fewer project management applications than a project due in 50 weeks. Streamline or expand your management approach to align with the length, width, depth, and breadth of the project.

The Big Trap: Working project Managers

It is common to have individuals serve as project managers and also require that they do part of the actual work in the project. This is a certain prescription for problems. If it is a true team, consisting of sev- eral people, the project manager inevitably finds herself torn between managing and getting her part of the work done. Naturally, the work must take precedence or the schedule will slip, so she opts to do the work. That means that the managing does not get done. She hopes it will take care of itself, but it never does. After all, if the team could manage itself, there would be no need for a project manager in the first place. (Remember our argument about whether project manage- ment matters?) FUNDAMENTALS OF PROJECT MANAGEMENT

Unfortunately, when the time comes for her performance evalua- tion, she will be told that her managing needs improving. Actually, she just needs to be allowed to practice management in the first place.

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Yes, for very small teams—perhaps up to three or four people—a project manager can do some of the work. But, as team sizes increase, it becomes impossible to work and manage both because you are con- stantly being pulled away from the work by the needs of your team members. FUNDAMENTALS OF PROJECT MANAGEMENT

One of the reasons for this situation is that organizations don’t fully understand what project management is all about, and they think that it is possible for individuals to do both. The result is that nearly everyone in the company is trying to manage projects, and, as is true in every discipline, some of them will be good at it and others will have no aptitude whatsoever. I have found that a far better approach is to select a few individuals who have the aptitude and desire to be project managers and let them manage a number of small projects. This frees “technical” people (to use the term broadly) to do tech- nical work without having to worry about administrative issues, while allowing project managers to get really good at their jobs.

It is outside the scope of this book to discuss how to select project managers, but, for the interested reader, the topic is covered in a book by Robert K. Wysocki and James P. Lewis titled The World-Class Project Manager (Perseus, 2001).

You Can’t have it All!

One of the common causes of project failures is that the project sponsor demands that the project manager must finish the job by a certain time, within budget, and at a given magnitude or scope, while achieving specific performance levels. In other words, the sponsor dic- tates all four of the project constraints. This doesn’t work.


The relationship among the P, C, T, and S constraints can be written as follows:


In words, cost is a function of performance, time, and scope. Graph- ically, I like to show it as a triangle, in which P, C, and T are the sides and S is the area. This is shown in Figure 1-1.

In geometry, we know that if we are given values for the sides of a triangle, we can compute the area. Or, if we know the area and the

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length of two sides, we can compute the length of the remaining side. This translates into a very practical rule of project management: the sponsor can assign values to any three variables, but the project man- ager must determine the remaining one.

So let’s assume that the sponsor requires certain performance, time, and scope parameters for the project. It is the project manager’s job to determine what it will cost to achieve those results. However, I always caution project managers that they should have a paramedic standing by when they give the cost figure to the sponsor because she will probably have a stroke or heart attack, and the paramedic will have to revive her.

Invariably, the sponsor exclaims, “How can it cost that much?” She had a figure in mind, and your number will always exceed her figure. And she may say, “If it’s going to cost that much, we can’t justify doing the job.” Exactly! And that is the decision she should make. But she is certain to try to get the project manager to commit to a lower number, and, if you do, then you only set up yourself—and her—to take a big fall later on.

It is your obligation to give the sponsor a valid cost so that she can make a valid decision about whether the project should be done. If you allow yourself to be intimidated into committing to a lower number, it is just going to be a disaster later on, and you are far better off taking your lumps now than being hanged later on.

Of course, there is another possibility. If she says she can afford only so much for the job, then you can offer to reduce the scope. If the job is viable at that scope level, then the project can be done. Other- wise, it is prudent to forget this project and do something else that can FUNDAMENTALS OF PROJECT MANAGEMENT

The relationshipsof P, T, C, and S

Figure 1.1. Triangles showing the relationship between P, C, T, and S.

[ Figure 1.1 ]

TriANgleS ShoWiNg The relATioNShip BeTWeeN p, T, C, AND S

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make a profit for the company. As someone has said, there is a higher probability that things will accidentally go wrong in a project than that they will accidently go right. In terms of cost estimates, this means that there is always a higher likelihood that the budget will be overrun than that the project will come in under budget. This is just another way of stating Murphy’s law: “Whatever can go wrong will go wrong.”

There is a higher probability that things will acci- dentally go wrong in a project than that they will accidentally go right.


There are many different models for the phases a project goes through during its life cycle. One of these that captures the all-too-frequent nature of projects that are not managed well is shown in Figure 1-2.

I have shown this diagram to people all over the world, and they invariably laugh and say, “Yes, that’s the way it works.” I suppose the comfort I can take is that we Americans are not the only ones who have the problem, but the bad news is that there are a lot of dysfunc- tional projects if everyone recognizes the model.

[ Figure 1-2 ]

liFe CYCle oF A TrouBleD proJeCT

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At the simplest level, a project has a beginning, middle, and end. I prefer the life-cycle model shown in Figure 1-3, but other versions are equally valid. In my model, you will notice that every project begins as a concept, which is always “fuzzy,” and that the project team must for- malize the definition of the job before doing any work. However, because of our ready-fire-aim mentality, we often start working on the job without ensuring that we have a proper definition or that everyone shares the mis- sion and vision for the job. This invariably leads to major problems as the project progresses. This is illustrated by the example that follows.

[ Figure 1-3 ]

AppropriATe proJeCT liFe CYCle



Some years ago, a project manager in one of my client companies called me and said, “I’ve just had a conference call with key members of my project team, and I realized that we don’t agree on what the project is supposed to accomplish.”

I assured him that this was common. “What should I do?” he asked. I told him that he had no choice but to get the team members all

going in the same direction by clarifying the mission of the project. He asked me to facilitate a meeting to do this.

At the meeting, I stood in front of a flip chart and began by saying, “Let’s write a problem statement.” Someone immediately countered by saying, “We don’t need to do that. We all know what the problem is.” FUNDAMENTALS OF PROJECT MANAGEMENT

I was unmoved by this comment. I said, “Well, if that is true, it’s just a formality and will only take a few minutes, and it would help me if we wrote it down. So someone help me get started FUNDAMENTALS OF PROJECT MANAGEMENT

Also check: Capstone Project: Strategic Planning Tool