Yahoo… We Cancelled Three Projects! What? This is something to celebrate?
Well it is. After so many years of watching our projects stumble to completion only to realize that we should have cancelled long ago, we seem to be getting to a point where we have the knowledge, the power and the nerve to say “Stop. No more.”
Organizations that have the nerve to cancel projects are brave. They understand that there are times when you have to admit things are not working out. They understand that sometimes what seemed like a good idea at the time may not be some time in the future. They understand that it is all right to say “Stop – no more”.
Last week I was listening to a Senior VP at a major Canadian bank boast that they actually cancelled three projects last quarter and she was proud of it. “Yahoo… we cancelled three projects!” Music to my ears.
In order to make this a reality in your organization, three things need to happen:
- The organization needs to understand and embrace the role of project management, from the very top to the very bottom.
- The strategic plan, or the big picture, needs to be communicated well, to everyone involved. We all need to see where we are headed.
- There needs to be a strong link between these two pieces: the plan and the work we do.
Slowly, we are seeing the emergence of strong, empowered and smart project teams that are connected to the bigger picture – connected to the strategic plan. This relationship between the plan and the work we do is vital if the organization wants to take control of their project portfolio and thus have the ability to change the course.
The critical factor here is the maturity of the project management team.
In the past, the project management team’s role was simple: build it on time, on budget and on scope. Management would often say “You worry about the ‘what’ and ‘how’ and ‘when’. We will worry about the ‘why’.”
The maturing project management team will have permission to say ‘why’. To ask ‘how does this fit into the big picture?” To be part of the conversation. The maturing project management team can see the relationship between the strategic plan and the work we do.
I was in Little Rock Arkansas this past week. In my keynote address I talked about this ‘new era’ for project management. I used the words “Talking truth to power”. This is what we want from our future project managers. We want you to be able to stand up to management and get involved in the conversation. But, I warned the audience, you had better be prepared. You have to know what you are talking about. You have to be able to talk the language of your audience. And you have to be able to back up your opinion with facts, figures and data.
We still need project managers who can get it done. This is not going away. But today we are also looking for a project manager who understands the business, who has the knowledge to be able to add value to the decision making engine of the organization. With people like this on our team, we can then start to build the bridge between the plan and the work we do. We can start to build a really valuable project environment that can be part of the conversation and that can eventually empower the organization to say ‘Enough! Cancel that project”.