Some thoughts driven by – IT Project Failures – Massive and Spectacular

I spent a long time in the project delivery game prior to formally moving to the business development side. I cannot remember the number of intelligent, dilligent driven people dedicated to successfully deliver value to their businesses. Many of these projects have been successful. But being in the business, I have had significant exposure to project which, on the surface, should have been effectively delivered but have failed. Some thoughts came to mind when reading about the massive IT failure of UK prison IT in Michael Krigsman’s blog.

As I read stories of failures, there are many which shout to me, “The Project Manager should be fired!!” Having been a PM, I am very sympathetic to the circumstances which can place the fault for a failed project on a PM. However, that does not eliminate the very real situations where much fault does lie with the PM.

At this point in my first draft, I started on about 2 pages of discussion around project management, differentiation between technology PM and others and more interesting discussion. Then I reread it and discovered that I missed my own point, which was:

More and more PM are not strong leaders. They are bookish, shuddering types who do not drive a project but minute it. These paper PMP’s are so dedicated to process uber alles that they cannot use it effectively to lead.

These pm’s are more like what I used to know as project coordinators. They build out plans based on input from others. They dutifully fillout their charts and reports. They take notes and minutes at meetings and publish them to stakeholders. They are ideal PM’s where everything is done and there is nothing new – where there are no surprises.

Unfortunately, these are not the PM’s who build team who aggressively acheive the new and formerly impossible. They are not the leaders who could successfully deploy a new system to the UK prison system. They are the note-takers who collect the CYA information needed for when the project goes to court.

The place for timid PM’s is not at the leading edge. I sometimes wonder whether a PM with time to get and keep their PMP is one I want on my projects.