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“What does Project Management mean to me? – a Project Managers Sermon”

“What does project management mean to me – a Project Manager’s sermon”

Project Management made simple and easy


Three people are arguing over who has the oldest profession in the world. A Doctor, an Engineer and a Project Sponsor were all arguing…

The Doctor stated that God removed a rib from Adam, and therefore must have required a surgeon; surely his was the oldest profession in the world?

The Technical Engineer shakes his head and says ‘no, no, no!’; the bible states God created the world out of void and chaos, and therefore engineering is the oldest profession in the world….

Then the Project Sponsor says, that God would have sponsored the Project, and who do you think created the Chaos?

Finally, there is a small voice from the corner of the room, and the PMO moves from the darkness into the light, and says ‘This world is one of many in the Portfolio, and who do you think facilitated the sanctioning of the project in the first place by aligning it with the overall strategic objectives? Oh and by the way, you lot never delivered it right in the first place, because we are all still trying to fix the bloody thing, and the benefits have yet to be realised!!! and one last thing…. Where’s all the change request forms for all the changes you have made to the planet?’


So what does project management mean to me?

It shouldn’t be this complicated; projects are becoming more relationships and politics rather than delivery. When did we all change these rules????

I have now been involved in project management or 20 years, 15 of this in a leading role, and 10 years as a PMO; I have been privileged to have worked many organisations, I have worked with over a 1000 people and over a 1000 projects, yet over these years, with all the training courses, we don’t seem to be getting any better at delivering projects?



One common trend I regularly see is that the vast majority of projects are not complicated, yet people make them complicated.

Many, many, years a go, I studied for a degree in Project Management at university and after 3 very long years, graduated with an honours degree. I came out of university feeling full of optimism to join the masses, expecting we would all be fully trained to tackle most project related situations; I also felt others with experience would be just as well trained, through their experiences.

From planning, to business cases, project financials, risks, issues, change control, configuration management, requirements definition, quality management, lifecycle and methodology, tracking and reporting, team building, stakeholder management, value management, earned value, PPM enterprise software, contracts and legislation, health and safety, governance boards, resource management… is it any wonder that we sometimes get it wrong?

As an industry we have all become fixated on training people on project management; yet, most people don’t apply the very basics.

Over 30 years ago we designed and built nuclear submarines and power plants, built sky scrapers, designed and built Concorde… we put a Man on the Moon!!!

All without Project Management Software or any Project Management training courses.

For some of these projects, I’m sure there were complications and delays on the way, but my point still stands, they all used the basics.


Should Project Managers become more….. simple?

Project Management to me, means avoiding the current trend of turning a project managers job from what could be seen as a pure relationship role back into a project management role; doing the basics and doing them well.

I’m not saying that relationships and politics are not important, or managing stakeholder expectations should be ignored (and at your peril!!), yet so many projects seem to be just about this, and have less focus on leading a team to design and deliver.

In my PMO role, I am responsible for mentoring and coaching Project Managers, and too many times, I ask the very simple questions and often get a complicated answer, and sometimes I don’t get an answer.


Projects should be able to tell a simple story:

–       ‘Why’ are we doing this?

–       ‘What’ are we delivering?

–       ‘When’ and ‘How’ are we going to deliver this?

–       ‘How’ are we doing?


Now over play some project techniques:

–       Business Case – ‘Why’ are we doing this?

–       Project Initiation Document and Requirements Captured – ‘What’ are we delivering?

–       Plan, Risks, Resources – ‘When’ and ‘How’ are we going to deliver this?

–       Tracking and Reporting – ‘How’ are we doing?


Isn’t this what stakeholders want to know?

So, if a Project Manager does the basics, and does them well, surely this makes the relationship and stakeholder management situation easier?

When a Project Manager has to report on potential issues or problems, the same message applies:

–       What has caused the problem?

–       What is the impact?

–       What can we do about it?

–       When can this be done by?

–       What decision are you asking me (the project sponsor) to make?

Project Management is all about Managing Deliver

Most stakeholders want a project to deliver.

Project Managers should be able to cover the basics e.g. agreed design of the products, how much has been spent? How much is forecast to spend? When will the products get delivered? Any potential problems?

My old Martial Arts instructor used to say to me when I was competing in tournaments…. (think Micky from the film Rocky) “Stop doing the flash and fancy stuff, you’re getting caught out… do the basics and do them well, that way you won’t get you’re ass kicked!!!”

Project Managers – do you want to avoid getting you’re ass kicked at work? – do the basics and do them well!

Project Management is capturing all of these essential points and displaying them in a simple and effective message, then leading a team to build really great and cool stuff……. afterall …

…It ain’t rocket science 😉


(catch all the #pmflashblog, #pmot or #ftpm  activity on twitter today – 25th September 2013 – there are over 70 of us all preaching Project Management)




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  1. I strongly agree!

    I find by compiling a ‘Quad of Aims’ at the outset helps the PM keep focussed on the basics;

    1) What exactly is the problem we are trying to fix here? ( (scope, limits and assumptions)
    2) Who will own the final product and who else will be affected (Customer & stakeholders)
    3) What is the prize? ( What are we the measurable deliverables?)
    4) How are we going to deliver the prize? ( what is the plan/ milestones & when are we going to deliver?)

    Finally a clear understanding of who, how and when you need to communicate risks, issues and projects

    Focus on these and you might just make it!

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