Top-down Planning With Little Input From Those Working On The Project - Project Management Mistake # 2
Top-down Planning With Little Input From Those Working On The Project - Project Management Mistake # 2 (#2 in the series 15 Deadly Project Management Mistakes Government Agencies Make Which Cost Them Revenue, Time & Efficiency)
By Keith Mathis - PM Expert Live
Project Management in a government setting is here to stay. It is one of those skills which help deliver the greatest value to the most individuals. During a time when all agencies are faced with tight budgets and limited staff, we must make sure we can complete projects in the shortest and most economic way. This series focuses on some of the most common blunders made by agencies when working on projects. Many of these mistakes are not a one-time event, but are part of the culture of the organization and happens in 90% of the projects.
Due to enormous pressure, project teams are faced with beginning activity on a project prior to completing a detailed project plan. This causes a great deal of hardship and mistakes which cost time and money for the organization as well as frustration to the project team.
The responsibility for planning the project is always a hot topic of debate in any of our seminars. There seems to be a consensus that individuals are planning the project, setting deadlines, and establishing budgets with little or no input from the frontline worker. In a government setting it is very common to hear this verbalized by the line worker. Many forget that upper management is normally the individuals who have control and understanding of the resources as well as the organization’s larger mission.
There are three main areas which should be considered when having top-down planning of a project. Each of these considerations must be looked at based on the individuals and their expertise in breaking down the project. There is a great deal of strength using both upper management as well as the line employee in putting together a plan, budget, and time sequence of any project.
Top-down planning is old style
Top-down planning is a demonstration of the old style of management, which was used consistently in the nineteen fifties through the eighties. Top-down planning makes the assumption that upper management has the best processes and ideas to run a project smoothly. In many cases, this is true when management has a great deal of experience with some of the specialized projects of the government agencies. However, top-down planning can hurt a project and, in many cases, destine it for severe problems because the employees have not had an opportunity to give input.
Top-down planning could reinforce the “Peter Principle”
During the nineteen seventies, management was introduced to a new phrase which was called the “Peter Principle.” This principle meant that individuals are promoted until they reach their level of incompetence, at which time the promotions cease. To put it a different way, people are promoted until they start doing a bad job, and then they are left in that position until retirement or until they quit. What if this principle is being applied to the project planning process in your agency? What if the person doing the planning has been promoted to their level of incompetence? If they are producing project plans and they happen to be at their level of incompetence, they are producing plans which are substandard to front line employees who have an expertise in the project.
This does not mean that every manager is demonstrating the “Peter Principle.” Most managers have worked extremely hard to move up in the organization, and they are making the best decisions to run the organization toward the fulfillment of its mission and objectives. However, it is not uncommon to run across individuals who are a walking example of the “Peter Principle,” and they are hurting their agency because they have position power.
Top-down planning limits buy-in from the team
Is team buy-in important to your project success? Do you desire for your team to generate ideas and solve problems on their own? If the answer to these two questions is “yes,” then top-down planning might be something which limits buy-in and input from your team. When an organization experiences a great deal of top-down planning from their executive staff, a culture is created that signifies a lack of trust toward frontline employees. The frontline employee begins to stop making even the most common decisions in a project and begins running all solutions through the management team. This kind of response slows down the project and prevents the project team from taking the needed responsibility.
In conclusion, one of the best things a project sponsor or manager can do in project planning is to set the parameters and then work with the team to come up with the needed timeline and expectations. This will reinforce input and buy-in from the team while assisting upper management and controlling the outcomes.
Dr. Keith Mathis, founder and CEO of The Mathis Group, specializes in Project Management, Management Leadership, and Marketing training for private businesses and government agencies of all kinds. He offers 33 Project Management courses, is a Project Management Professional, is certified by the Project Management Institute and will customize every training session to your individual company’s needs. The Mathis Group also sponsors www.pmexpertlive.com, which is a powerful project management resource with free reports, podcasts, videos, and a monthly newsletter. He also offers customized management training and coaching on any subject with prolific communication and professionalism.
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