Beyond Execution

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Sacrifices - Theory vs Real Life

Posted by beyondexecution on February 3, 2011 at 11:27 AM

As an instructor, I'm very aware that what is taught is on paper only (these days, I guess the analogy is a Word document only) and what is done in real life varies depending on the situation. This is especially true when managing project risk. There is a ton of project management activities that "should" be done, but aren't due to time constraints and overhead burdens.

 

Since taking a delivery position, I am again faced with these situations and challenges again. Right now, I am tasked with developing the project management plan for my part of the program. If it were myself, I'd probably whip something up, high level, within a week and build in details as I go.

 

But I've found that it's not that simple. First reason: I'm not the only one. I'm managing a program and have 7 other leads under me. Some are PMs and others are technical leads. Some are ok developing the scope and timeline without much to start with, others are very risk adverse and don't want to commit to a schedule, while others just want to deliver without bothering to create a plan. And of course there is a very high degree of cross-action and dependency between their projects.

 

We are beginning requirements gathering sessions within a few weeks. Yet we don't have a charter or a project management plan - we have scope statements, but no detailed schedule and no budget. What on earth are we thinking, right?

 

So, there are a few things that allow us to proceed like this. The solution is defined - there is an approved Business Case which is actually very detailed. It outlines the project context, software components, the team structure, the high level timeline, and high level risks. It could actually serve as a Charter in many ways. Another item in our favour is the timeline. This first stage of the project spans 3 years; the requirements gathering itself will last 3-4 months. The last favourable factor is the existence of a pilot/prototype that was implemented 5 years ago. It has provided a functional baseline as well as excellent lessons learned.

 

So from a risk perspective, we feel there is a lower risk attached to proceeding without the plan. Is this documented? Let's say I plan to as soon as I finish posting this entry. (On a side note, we don't have all our resources in place, so I am pulled in many directions, spending 50 hours a week and feeling like I'm not accomplishing much).

 

But this approach is starting to bite us. We are issuing Procurement SOWs to be signed. I faced some tough questions yesterday in fact. The response I got was: "How do you expect me to sign a $2.3 million contract when you can't show me a plan?"

 

I felt like an idiot and deservedly so. It's something that I wouldn't teach people to do, and here I was getting caught on this very basic PM principle. I hate making excuses, so I need to go back to basics and get some things done. Let my experience be a lesson to you!


Categories: Project Management Tips

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