Processes, Processes Everywhere…

< This is a personal blog – not indicating the corporate views of MCLMG, LLC >

Project/Program Portfolio Management (PPPM)
By PH Lohnes, PMP

Processes, Processes Everywhere, but not a Drop of Success Anywhere!”

While this may seem somewhat extreme, my two year research project has shown me that at all the organizations without exception, the demand for more processes was the rallying cry to remedy the project/program portfolio problems they were experiencing. In meeting after meeting, I heard that the problem is we need to define our processes, we need to hire a consultant to define the right processes, we needÂ… You get the idea.

I can tell you that the reason for failure of project and programs in today’s PM environment is NOT the lack of processes. Even the PMI’s own body of knowledge has over 42 processes; the APM’s body of knowledge has defined its cache of techniques/processes; the IPMA has 46 competencies/processes, etc. On top of that, almost every consultant has their take on the kind of processes needed to shepherd a project to successful completion. So with all these processes, why is the rate of project success still around the 38-50% level depending on which study you read?

The problem thus cannot be the lack of processes – it is the simple lack of understanding about the correct perspectives that project, program, and portfolio managers should have in an organization. While this may seem rather dismissive to the complexity of the project management discipline, let me ask you one question:

As you know more and more about a discipline, does it become more complex or simpler?
The obvious answer is simpler!

Ask any subject matter expert (SME). They will most likely tell you that their discipline is very complex to the untrained, the uninitiated, or the neophyte. However, ask them if they find their discipline easy to understand, and they will, with a large smile, tell you that, “Yes, it is simple to me know that I understand it completely.” Another case in point – I watched my late father perform over 50 surgeries as a thoracic surgeon with each one a resounding success. The point that stuck me was the ease with which he yielded the instruments, excised the malignant tissue, and closed the wound. All without the merest hint of difficulty or hesitation. He had performed over 500 of such operations, and to him, the process was simplistic.

My point, it is the experience or skills with which the process is executed that is the paramount issue. So ask yourself: Does my organization put the most senior or junior personnel at the project management level? I maintain that in most organizations if not all, put the experience at the point of the hierarchy where it makes the least impact while depriving the project management level of the experience and skills needed for proper execution and discipline.

In closing, consider this concept: you can teach people how to strategize, plan, and manage, but learning how to execute is a skill only derived from the hours of hands-on experience served up in the crucible of time on the job as a project manager. In short, organizations should worry less about the kinds of processes they have, and more about the right experience and skills at the right levels.

Execution of the plan is the reason most project are not more successful. Does anyone write a plan focused on failure? Does anyone teach how to write failing project plans? Anyone can write a plan, only experienced project managers can implement it on-time and on-budget.

Processes? No, rather experience is the ticket. I will be covering this topic in more detail next week when I make my suggestions on how properly to staff your project/program/portfolio structure. Most organizations do not even consider achieving the best use of their experienced project managers, as I will show in a subsequent post.

Tomorrow we will post what the correct perspective focus each level of the PPPM structure should have in order to increase the success rates of project activities.

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