After reading my blog on the history of project management, I believe it’s clear the impact that Frederick Taylor and Henry Gantt had on what we now know as modern project management. We also have a clearer understanding of the benefits of having a project manager (PM). The pertinent question now becomes, how does this help companies and/or projects? How do I improve productivity and success of the projects that I initiate? The simple answer is this – you will need to understand the expectations and capabilities of a project manager and then match the project manager to the right project. In this blog, expectation is defined as “something that will happen” i.e. a realistic probability of future outcome based on current actions. Expectations are not based on wants or hope but instead on an aggregation of capabilities on the ground.

A few years ago, I was on site with a client. It probably goes without saying that the reason I was with the client was that the client was not happy with the outcome of the service they were receiving. On my first day on the ground, it was very clear that everybody was trying their very best to deliver the highest quality of service. Unfortunately, that was not improving the client’s mood about the service being rendered. The outsource company in question had many years of experience delivering implementations of this kind in the past. So why were we having problems? You would think that having a wonderful client and an experienced outsource company working hard to do the right thing would make the process move smoothly. However, this was not the case.

I spent some time reviewing the situation and after discussing with all the key stakeholders (Project Owner-PO, Project Manager-PM, and Outsource Company Delivery Manager- OCDM), I quickly came to understand that the issues lay with all three key stakeholders for different reasons. Often, by the time I get to this point, I have already received an earful of what the “real problem” is with statements that amount to “our expectations are not being met”. This implies that there is a “set expectation”. The assumption then would be “if we all just meet the expectation everything would be fine”. So there, issue resolved and now I can go home to my family and get ready for the next problem…BUT, not so fast Geoff! Everyone is still unhappy and increasingly, the client. This then led me to the conclusion that the issue was not a lack of effort in trying to meet expectation.

The issue – Now that we know that the issue is not due to a “lack of effort for trying to meet expectations” we can get down to the bottom of the situation.

In reality, the expectation was unrealistic for all 3 key stakeholders. The PO did not have a clear understanding of whether as an organization they could support this project, and if not, what was needed to provide adequate support? The DM was purely focused on delivering the contract at minimal cost and the PM only focused on tracking the project because he quickly realized that neither knowing the client core business or technology would lead to a successful project.

The solution – What was needed was someone who could assess the situation like Frederick Taylor, determine the optimal/realistically outcome and then work with the POs and DMs to map out a realistic expectation that they both agreed on. The one responsible for this analysis/assessment should have been the PM but unfortunately, the wrong PM was on the project. This is not the PM’s fault. Instead, it is the fault of the individual who wrote the job description/requirement for the PM. Too often when it comes to getting a PM, the PO believes it best to hire someone who knows their core business to run the project. On the other hand, the outsourcing company likes to hire someone who would have dual responsibility of limiting the outsourced companies risk exposure (i.e. understand their outsourced companies business model) while being acceptable to the client. In all, there was no one on the project who actually assessed what was needed to effectively manage the project successfully while leveraging unified realistic expectations for all key stakeholders.