Project Management

Does the Project Manager Stand a Chance?

pointing man When projects are poorly planned and the value of their expected outcomes not well-articulated, there is only so much a project manager can do with a faulty foundation. On a blog post at the Association for Project Management, John Ellams writes about a recent event in which Peter Langley, committee member of the Value Management SIG, posed the question of whether project managers stand a chance. In order for project managers to have any hope of making a project work, they must understand the value that the project is expected to have. Ellams uses Langley to give a clear definition to value: We won’t have been the first group that has been reminded by Peter that “Benefit” and “Value” are different things, though may be interrelated. In simple terms value is defined by the following relationship: Value = Satisfaction of Needs / Use of Resources Peter explained that Value should have a link to company strategy and be explicit within the Business Case. However, it is not usually made tangible until after the project has been delivered and can be forgotten as the project team struggles to control cost and time. Ellams finds that many of the same causes of project failure identified back in a 2005 report are still equally troubling today, including lack of clear link to strategy, lack of stakeholder engagement, and lack of wider team/supplier integration. Another study from 2003 finds that problems arise from what can be described as “delusional optimism” in which people overestimate their capabilities, leading them to overestimate benefits, underestimate costs, spin scenarios of success, and overlook potential risks. Ellams concludes that a bit of that optimism might be necessary for project managers to convince themselves that they have leg to stand on, but what they really need is to gather the authority to make sure that projects have received sufficient planning from the outset.

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