All project management methods include an activity to specify roles and responsibilities. In Scrum the roles as Scrum Master, Product Owner and the Team as well as their separate areas of responsibility, are clearly defined. In Kanban, flow is controlled by balancing supply and demand, and Kanban respects the roles that are in place in each individual organization. In both systems you use Post-its and note who does what etc.
In PMI, IPMA and PRINCE2, the roles and responsibilities for the steering committee, the Project Manager and the Team are also clearly defined, and there is emphasis on stakeholder and communication management. (Don’t forget that your project team members are also stakeholders). All processes are clearly defined with input and output for each process step.
So why do projects still fail?
They fail, because you cannot fit people into a formula!
Imagine that a project manager comes up to you and says that you are needed on a project. Your skills will be needed in 3 months’ time. You think that it sounds reasonable and suggest that the project manager makes further arrangements with your manager. After this, you don’t hear anything before “5 minutes to 3 months”, when the project manager returns and asks if you will be done soon? “What with?” you ask. In fact, you have forgotten all about the delivery that the project manager asked for approximately 100 years ago, cleared with your manager, but didn’t follow up upon.
This might be pushing things to extremes, but it happens over and over again, that you assume that once you have discussed something once, or if you have sent an email with a deadline, then the delivery will be ready exactly on time. You forget that a project, which may be the most important in the world for you, is not necessarily important to your colleagues. To them projects are typically a stone in the shoe, because they always result in extra work on top of the tasks, that they were hired to do.
Assumptions are the root to all evil!! You must immediately forget:
- I assumed that…
- I felt that…
- I imagined that…
Make clear agreements, communicate precisely, and follow up. Not only once but several times, because people forget or postpone the project task, or they hope that it will go away. Not because they want to make it difficult for you, but because they are busy with everything else but your project.
But does management not leave room for participation in projects for all the project workers?
The answer is a loud and clear NO!! During my + 20 years working with IT projects, I have never seen any organizations organize themselves in a way that leaves room for the employees to participate in projects.
This means that when you need a resource on your project, you have to fight like crazy, because when this person is taken away from his daily work, there are activities that will not be done, will be delayed or might even fall between two stools. But if the resource is not put at your disposal, you cannot proceed in your project. So you end up stuck between a rock and a hard place.
While you discuss the resource situation, your project is delayed, and delayed projects result in exceeded project budgets. That is a fact.
This is what you can do as a project manager
Insist that resources are allocated to your project in “whole pieces”.
You have to avoid – at any cost – that you get resources that are allocated a few hours here and there. You very often see that especially key resources are spread too thin on several projects – 10% here and 15% there. These are “desk allocations” making it impossible to carry out any activity effectively, and it is very unproductive. The consequence is that a task, which is estimated to 3 days, on condition that you have 3 days in a row to complete it in, suddenly takes several weeks to complete, and exceeds the estimated 3 days, because your resources have to do a lot of task switching.
Which brings us straight back to delayed projects and project budgets at risk. In your plan, the 3 estimated days are 3 consecutive days. If reality shows, that the 3 days are chopped up and distributed over several weeks – and thereby underestimated – the project will be delayed.
As a minimum, you have to communicate the consequences of poor resource allocation, which will be exceeded budgets and time delays.
Make explicit agreements with your project team
Just to show in your project plan that you need a certain competence, does not mean that your will get what you need. Make clear agreements on, exactly who you can expect to be allocated to your project, exactly when the resource will be available, and also communicate the consequences of a potential lack of required competencies.
Important! Ask your resources to confirm that they have accepted their tasks, and that they know, what it takes to complete them. Make sure that they have enough time. It is not enough that they tell you that, “they will do their best”. Don’t we all? They have to convince you that they can deliver on time.
To sum it all up
Be very explicit, when you specify roles and responsibility on your project, make precise agreements and communicate often. Your colleagues will not “figure it out”, and “somebody” has never made anything happen – only real people get things done!