What About All The Other Projects?

(originally published March, 2018)

I ran into a colleague recently who talked about a disastrous office relocation. It seems that everything that could go wrong did go wrong.

Knowing my passion for project management and everything related, our conversation naturally moved to ‘what could have been’ and ‘where did we go wrong’.

Of course, my first question was “Who was the project manager?”.  There was no project manager in charge.  This project did not fit in under the Project Office responsibilities and thus, it did not receive the attention it deserved.

There was, however, an office administrator in charge – a person who was awesome at his/her job but not trained, in any way, to manage a project of this sort.

This is a great example of an organization investing in their professional project managers but not understanding that their organization runs a lot of ‘other’ projects as well.  While an office relocation isn’t on par with a $5 million software installation, it is critical enough to warrant some attention to its management. 

My career has taken a couple of funny twists lately.  After 25 years in the project management space, it seems that I am gravitating toward my passion for the communities on either side of the project managers: strategic planners and all the non-project managers who are asked to manage projects.

The latter group need attention.

There are thousands of these resources working for our organizations and they are dying to be empowered with what we know for their ‘sometimes, not very expensive, not mission-critical’ projects.

What do they need to know?

  1. They need to have very clears goals about what they are doing, for whom and most importantly why. Don’t say yes, I tell them, to those small projects unless they are very clear about who, what and why.
  2. They need to get a good handle, very quickly, on the major stakeholders with whom they will be dealing with.
  3. They need to understand all of the resources they will have available to them including, but not limited to, people, time and funding.
  4. They need to learn how to create a simple plan and budget and keep both under control throughout the project.
  5. They need to learn not to panic when things change.
  6. And they need to be sure to do a post mortem so that others around can learn for the next time.

All of this sounds like a good foundation for any professional project manager. The difference is that this is pretty well the whole list for the non-project manager. The trick is to keep it simple. 

For my money, anything is better than nothing. We shouldn’t be asking the office administrator to manage a large and complicated office relocation unless they are properly trained.  We should be giving them the education and coaching that they need to do this part of their job well.  Their success is important not just for them, but for the organization as well.

There is power in simple, basic control over the everyday projects. 

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1 thought on “What About All The Other Projects?”

  1. Dave,

    You make an excellent point. This situation is the fault of the organization, not necessarily the person assigned the project. I have seen projects given to people who either do not have the time, skills or resources to properly manage them and the results were not positive. In my former roll in local government, I saw a bridge engineer put in charge of a building renovation project. His comment at the first project meeting was… “I do not know anything about managing a building renovation project, I build bridges.”… In my current organization, administrative staff are assigned to low value project and PM consists of giving the folder to a resource and saying “let me know when I can bill this”. I am happy to say, however, I have been somewhat successful in getting the latter changed and now ALL projects, large and small, are run through a PM for at least some sort of oversight. We are also now mentoring staff as project coordinators to properly manage the smaller projects and also assist with the larger projects. Many people call themselves Project Managers without the skills or knowledge to lead the team to a successful conclusion, and this condition normally starts at the higher administrative level.

    Thanks for your thoughts. I enjoy the blog and all the great insights!

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