Project managers in IT have a tough job. I've been there myself, and I have also coached a large number of project managers (PM) throughout my travels consulting for a number of organizations around the world. One of the biggest challenges a PM faces is managing the iron triangle of time, cost and scope while wrestling with never ending waves of change and uncertainty as they sheppard the team and project to completion. The typical tool most PMs have been trained on is the work break down structure (WBS) and being schooled by institutions such as PMI, that the best way to manage change and gain predictability is to track at the task and resource level. Unfortunately this approach tends to fail as project complexity increases and most experienced PMs that have the battle scars of large complex projects learn quickly that detailed planning and tracking doesn't help manage change or gain predictability. Trying to keep up with a large rapidly changing project is like playing Tetris on level 20, good luck.
|Game Over - Trying to keep up with a complex project plan|
At this stage of their career, the tendency is to move from detailed task and resource tracking to focus on milestones and deliverables tracking to reduce the detailed planning that doesn't justify the cost vs value of keeping it up to date. While this lighter weight approach is better as it frees up the PMs time from updating project plans and chasing people for status and allows them to spend more time on managing the client, leading the team and resolving issues, it has also has flaws. At some point in the large hairy project, the client or someone else will launch a large number of changes at the project. Change is inevitable in projects for knowledge work. During this time, the PM is struggling to answer the questions of "what is the impact of these changes?", "will we be on time?", and "what can we do to get on track again?". Tracking milestones and deliverables fails miserably at answering those questions. The PM desperate for answers and in need to "show progress" tends to fall back to detailed plan in an attempt to resume control forgetting why they avoided doing this in the first place. It's a vicious cycle and leaves the project at risk.
Lean and Agile to the Rescue
Benefits of Throughput Planning
If your a project manager that is struggling to manage the chaos and complexity in your projects, I encourage you to take a look at Throughput Planning and look at how to make your project more lean and agile. It reduces your workload in tracking, simplifies impact assessments, and reduces risk.