Back To Basics: Deliverables versus Processes

man question mark

Published in the Project Post-Gazette, Issue 2014-03
by Paul Lohnes, MBA, PMP
Project Post-Gazette

If the purpose of a project is to produce ‘fit-for-use’ deliverables then why do we train our project managers (PM) and business analysts (BA) to focus and prioritize the mindset of processes and procedures? This just simply does not make sense. This would be like training an National Football League (NFL), the USA’s major sports organization, team that simply learning the team’s playbook with all its ‘X and Os’ will produce the desired outcome of winning the recently completed Super Bowl competition (which we did not watch.) Any coach or team manager knows without a doubt that winning on the field is all about the deliverables and not about the processes.

Processes are for providing structure within which execution may have a better chance of success; however, it is the quarterback or running back that makes the ‘on-the-field’ decision to alter this process or that plan that usually wins the game. Project management is not tidy, clean, and definitive. It is much in kin to the activities of warfare. Any experienced combat commander will tell you that there are plans, and then there is reality. Spoken another way, plans are outdated the moment the first shot is fired.

The same is true of project management and our discipline’s success rates are not going to improve until practitioners and organizations that utilize project management to enhance their business stature realize this point. You cannot teach experience in a book, from a class, through a process or even with ‘green eggs and ham.’ Project execution is only experienced, and experience comes with time and the application of memory – what worked and what did not. Delusion is the outcome for those that have not or cannot grasp this concept, and delusion will inevitably lead to failure since delusion is not based in reality. Project management is real and requires real, physical execution skills from those that profess to practice it as a professional. Would you submit to a medical surgeon that only professes to know what was in Grey’s Anatomy and the best practices of the American Board of Surgery? Of course not! Then why do organizations, project sponsors, and key stakeholders continue to accept such sub-standard and inexperience from their project managers?

We believe that in any profession, there needs to be a period of learning, application under supervision, trial by controlled practice, and practical demonstration of skills in the project management discipline. The resources being wasted on the alternatives is truly staggering and human endeavor impactful. Wake up discipline, or face extinction!

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