Over the past few years I have coached many a project manager. With great pride I am told of their APM or PMI or PRINCE2 or AGILE or MSP credentials. There is no doubt that they know their methodologies inside out! And when the going gets tough, many wear them over their tights to save their project from evil fiends like perpetual 99% complete-ers, ‘I didn’t think it was a risk’-ers, ‘not my responsibility’-ers and weasely scope creeps!
But what happens when the thing murdering the project is the methodology itself?
When organisations use methodologies to drive behaviour rather than inform behaviour, project productivity starts to get eaten up in ‘feeding the process’, rather than achieving the project purpose. This is where we need project managers who can strip off their too tight methodology ‘smalls’ and be free to think about ‘what is needed here, in this context, on this project, at this time’. In short, we need project managers to have a mindset that is willing to ‘go commando’ or at least ‘strip down to the necessaries’ in order to get things done.
Developing your project managers to be effective is not just about sending them on methodology based courses. It is about helping them develop the right mindset to enable them to be curious, to explore, and identify what is appropriate to projects in different circumstances. Unless we develop the capacity of our project managers to be courageous, think creatively, laterally and freely, we run the risk of developing process experts who are unable to function outside a very narrow context. And that is neither good for their career or for the organisation.