Overcoming Project Management Super Villains

February 10, 2010 | Author: PM Hut | Filed under: Project Management Best Practices, Project Management Musings

Overcoming Project Management Super Villains
By Kiron D. Bondale

Delivering our profession often requires super-human effort and, as we all know, a super hero is only as good as the super villains they have to defeat.

This article covers three of the super villains that plague project managers and provides some insights into how to deal with them.

1. The Scope Shape Shifter

The scope shape shifter can be identified by frequent changes in requirements and other scope elements. Just when you think you’ve got the shape shifter’s requirements nailed down, they morph into something else resulting in budget overruns and schedule delays. If you try to enforce rigid scope control practices with them, they escalate and complain that you are “nickel and diming” them or are not paying attention to customer satisfaction.

One way to deal with the scope shape shifter is to use an agile project management approach that encourages refinement of requirements over the project’s lifecycle. If you are unable to apply agile practices due to the nature of the project, structure it in a phased approach and focus on delivering the highest priority requirements first, leaving medium or lower priority requirements for future phases (and hence open for change by the customer).

2. The Sponsor from Another Dimension

The extra-dimensional sponsor starts out by being all that you want a sponsor to be - communicating the value of their project to all stakeholders, securing the necessary funding to get the project kicked off, and providing you with a vision of how they see this project benefiting their world.

Unfortunately, the moment you escalate a project issue, or assign them as the owner of a risk event, they have dimension-shifted back to another plane of existence from whence they can observe unscathed the chaos occurring in your world.

The key to keeping these sponsors in our dimension is to engage them only when absolutely necessary and in appropriate “business terms” (so they don’t feel overwhelmed with information that they perceive is of little value to them), to ensure that project success is considered part of their performance evaluation (by appropriately leveraging your influence across the organization), and if all else fails, to have an appropriate escalation path to be able to drag them kicking and screaming back into our world.

3. The Prima Donna

On many projects you may forget that you are the project manager and start to feel more like a babysitter. At least one of your project resources might be extremely reluctant to provide timely progress updates without frequent nagging, may ignore assigned issues, and in general does not “play well” with fellow team members.

To defuse this situation before it occurs, it is very important for project managers to establish expectations for communication and team interaction as early as possible. These expectations should be reinforced on a regular basis during team meetings.

The project manager should also strive to establish good relationships with resource managers, which makes the process of escalating concerns about specific resources easier to deal with. The worst thing a project manager can do is to pander to prima donnas. If their behavior is tolerated, they will go from bad to worse, and other responsible team members will be demoralized.

Have I ignored any of the key arch-villains? Let me know.

Kiron D. Bondale (PMP) is the Manager, Client Services for Solution Q Inc. which produces and implements project portfolio management solutions. Kiron has managed multiple mid-to-large-sized IT projects, and has worked for over twelve years in both internal and professional services project management capacities. He has setup and managed Project Management Offices (PMO) and has provided project portfolio management consulting services to clients across multiple industries. Kiron is actively involved with the Project Management Institute (PMI) and served as a volunteer director on the Board of the PMI Lakeshore Chapter from 2003 to 2009. Kiron has published articles on project management in a number of industry publications and has presented PPM/PM topics in multiple conferences and webinars.

For more of Kiron’s thoughts on project management, please visit his blog at http://solutionq.wordpress.com/.

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2 people have left comments

The anti-hero? See Why heroes are bad. ;-)

Zacharias J. Beckman wrote on February 10, 2010 - 3:08 pm | Visit Link

Scope Shape Shifter always reminds me of Johnny Cash’s song “One Piece at a Time”

“So we drilled it out so that it would fit
And with a little bit of help with an A-daptor kit
We had that engine runnin’ just like a song
Now the headlight’ was another sight
We had two on the left and one on the right
But when we pulled out the switch all three of ‘em come on.”

Scope Shape Shifter & One Piece at a Time

Aaron Walters wrote on February 12, 2010 - 2:41 pm | Visit Link

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