15

I managed a project in a company where I was the only person with experience of using formal methods (Prince 2).

The directors of the company, and the other senior staff, all took the attitude that the project was my responsibility, and if I asked for help they would give it - but otherwise I should just go away and deliver the results.

They were not interested in forming a project board, or reviewing risk registers, or even breaking it into manageable stages. It's not that they were disinterested - they just didn't "get" the reason for formal processes, as they had never used them in the past. It's not that all of their projects had been successful in the past: their management style just didn't fit with formal processes.

I capitulated and delivered the project (on time and budget and to their satisfaction, amazingly) without imposing any formal processes outside my own project team, but I felt very exposed. If I faced a similar situation again, how should I handle it?

9

Years ago, there was a great series of articles by Donna Fitzgerald, describing "stealth Project Management" practices which I took to heart during an assignment which was a bit like the situation you described.

It appears they're still posted on Techrepublic:

Stealth PM: How to craft a successful launch, quietly

Stealth project management: Staying on track

While searching for it, there's a summary and some criticism (with reply from Donna) on Hal Macomber's site here: Project Management Just Unnecessary Overhead?

I hope you like it as much as I did. Donna has written some really great stuff.

  • 1
    Excellent articles, and a great justification for continuing to use proper process despite the lack of interest from colleagues. Well worth wider circulation! – Iain9688 Mar 16 '11 at 20:40
5

As a Project Manager, you have many tools in your toolbox. As the resident expert in your company, it is your responsibility to select and use the tools that you find necessary to ensure a successful project, and it sounds like you have had success within your team using those formal methods and tools.

If upper management is giving you the resources you need, but are just oblivious to your processes, don't abandon the tools that help you and your team deliver a successful result. There may be a time down the road when an issue arises, and management asks, "how did this happen? What are we going to do about it?" You'll be glad you had a risk register.

Stick to your guns, keep advancing yourself, and find opportunities to demonstrate value in the tools you use. For example, write a project charter, even if nobody reads it. Manage scope and create a change management plan. When scope creep happens, execute the change management process. Management doesn't have to drink the Kool-Aid, but they'll be better off thanks to your commitment to good project management processes.

  • Solid advice and great justification for doing the work the way it should be done, regardless of the wider culture of the company. Many thanks. – Iain9688 Mar 16 '11 at 20:42
  • The key to success is just not forcing others to do it by just focusing on your domain and the things in your control. Great answer. – jmort253 Mar 17 '11 at 3:47
1

Change the company. If you're interested to grow as a project manager this business environment is against you. I'm not saying they are bad businessmen, not at all. I'm just saying that your professional growth will be significantly delayed there.

  • I'm not in that company now, but as I like working in smaller companies, I suspect that I may face the situation elsewhere. I can either accept it and do the same again, or find a way to explain the benefits of doing things properly. Maybe I need to interview them more, while they are interviewing me, but once I'm in the door, moving on won't always be an option. I prefer not to leave during the life of a project. – Iain9688 Mar 16 '11 at 19:31
  • 1
    Some businesses like to operate with stealth and not focus on bloated processes. There is nothing wrong with just focusing on results, especially if the results move the company and the individual forward. – jmort253 Mar 17 '11 at 3:52
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    If you want to work in a more structured environment you will need to go to a larger company where they understand the value of methodology. I have chosen smaller companies and credit unions because I can help them without forcing my structure on them. But, you need to like that work to thrive in it. – Perry Wilson Mar 17 '11 at 5:15

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