On time and on budget can still be a failed project

Even the much quoted Triple Constraint model of Project Management fails to point out the one absolute, need to know fact that all project managers must understand to be good at their role. In Project Management, it’s not your project at all – you are simply a custodian for someone else’s deliverables. Forget this at your peril.

Even the much vaulted “within budget” isn’t actually yours to control, as the decision to blow the budget or not belongs with your masters. Those whom I like to refer to as “The 3 C’s”:

  • The Customer, simply put whoever is writing the cheque to pay for the project.
  • The Contributors, or stakeholders as they are more recently known. These are people who the customer has identified as having an interest in the end result.
  • The Consumer, or whoever uses the project’s output.

Forgetting any one of these can cause your nicely on time and under budget project to be an abject failure. If the consumers aren’t happy they will either fail to engage with the product, or worse still actively try to avoid it by creating their own alternatives and work-arounds. If the contributors aren’t happy that their views have been adequately considered then the customer is going to hear all about it. And if the customer isn’t happy they are unlikely to use you again.

So what do you do to prevent that?

Firstly, use a decent method: PMI Project Management is good in that it provides guidance that can either stand alone or fit with the other great methodologies including Prince and Agile. Revisiting your training regularly to ensure that you haven’t strayed too far from the core method is essential and if you can’t bring yourself to reread the PMBOK yet again, an online course is a good alternative.

Secondly, communicate often, directly and actively seek feedback: It is your job to ensure that the customer is aware of how everyone feels about the project, how it is progressing and the risk associated with disgruntled consumers or contributors.

The simple question, “are you happy with this?” Honestly asked, this question can warn you of impending problems before they become hostility or resentment. Like it or not in Project Management – their happiness is directly linked to your happiness.

Project Management: Do it right and it’s someone else’s success; do it wrong and it’s your failure.


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