This is Chris Hammond’s contribution to smartitpm.com.
Chris HammondAs Project managers, we are all familiar with the process.
Sometimes, it can feel like a project manager’s universe is just a collection of interlocking processes.
What happens if the need to adhere to an organisational process is incompatible with project progress?
Project managers are not process monkeys, after all.
We are not process workers, production lines operators, or trained gerbils.
We exist to deliver outcomes.
On time, on budget, and to specification
Let’s now look at the dilemma of “process vs. progress” and what we can do to improve our projects.
Why do processes exist in the first place?
We need to take in the bigger picture when it comes to processes.
Why are organisations required to have processes?
Basically, processes exist to serve the following three masters:
Control of Safety or Business Critical Tasks Aeroplane component design or changes to the core banking infrastructure
Quality Assurancei.e. Quality Assurancei.e. document review, software testing, and release
To Facilitate Progressi.e. Frameworks for project delivery
You are correct, most processes exist to facilitate progress.
At least, in theory.
Let’s say a company is a commercial entity. It exists to make money. The company grows and does its work, which is now being done by many people. It requires processes. Processes allow the company to achieve its goals more efficiently, with predictable results, and more smoothly.
All processes serve (or should serve a business need) in the end.
To meet business needs, temporary projects can also be created.
There can be conflict.
This will all depend on the maturity and size of the organisation that you work for.
Many smaller companies don’t have the resources to manage their own processes.
Large enterprises can sometimes seem like a maze of rigidly enforced processes. Senior managers are constantly on the prowl, trying to protect their process territory.
It is common for processes to be divorced from their original purpose, especially in larger companies or organizations with low maturity levels.
It is not unusual for project managers to be faced with a poorly designed, out-of date, or immature process.
It is not unusual for such a process to impede progress.
The Main Event: Progress vs. Process
The red corner: Managing operational business requirements, repeatability, predictability and consistency:
32 wins, 2 losses – The reigning, undisputed world champion of the Process!
The blue corner: Getting project business benefits, delivery, and flexibility in the fight for the blue:
25 wins, 0 loss, the challenger – Progress!
Every project manager will face a time in their career when they have to step up and fight for the process.
If a process has an impact on your schedule, budget, or scope, it is a major decision that is out of your control.
The winner will be determined by the project stakeholders.
Your job as project manager, is to help them make that decision.
The decision between:
Option 1: Delivering project as planned, conceived, and baselined.
Option 2: Continue the process, delaying the project, or increasing the budget.
I know what you are going to say.
Some project managers will shout loudly: Your baseline schedule should have included the timeline requirements for following all organisation processes!
However, the reality is that it doesn’t always work this way in real life.
Project schedules don’t always need to be created at this level of detail.
Even more, in complex organizations, new processes or changes to existing processes can be introduced while your project is in flight!
The judges must make their decisions.