Project Management – Speaking Truth to Power

Many years ago, in a heated discussion about missed project deadline, a colleague rather sneeringly said to me: “It’s alright for you Stuart, you always allow yourself enough time to complete your projects!”

This remark hurt at the time and that’s probably why I remember it so vividly. But shouldn’t I have taken it as a compliment? After all the essence of sound project management is to plan for and demand sufficient resource to meet the project criteria.

Some years later, I was engaged on an assignment to deliver a project that had a deadline that just could not be moved (the clue is: it was the 5th April).  Given that end date is fixed, the only other variable is the level of manpower available – more bodies for a shorter time or, in our case, more hours in longer days.

That’s when I fully understood the perspective of my colleague.  He was Applications Development Manager driven very much by business imperatives, I was Technical Manager – relatively free to set and manage my own deadlines.

Nevertheless, of course, project management is just that – the sound management of a project. There is no merit in taking on a project that has either unrealistic timescales or inadequate resources to enable it to be delivered to the required quality.

That’s why in our PRINCE2 ® training courses we take a very practical and pragmatic approach to the real-life challenges that face project managers. Our course takes a workshop approach based on the principles of accelerated and practical learning. We know that people learn more effectively where learning events are activity-centred and that they can better relate the theory to the real world. Sadly, the dynamics of modern business do not always fit the theoretical model.

Project managers need to be flexible and prepared to stand up for their project. If the planning reveals that there is insufficient time, budget or resource to deliver reliably – the project manager has not only a right but a duty to escalate to the project board. Senior management need to know and acknowledge risk. The ability to speak truth to power is an essential quality that project managers must have – backed by sound planning and an international accepted framework – the true value of PRINCE2 ®.

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