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Avoid Voice Guided Project Navigation
By The Grumpy Project Manager

Planned projects are problematic in relation to happiness

In planned projects with prioritized task lists it is easy for corporate PMs to lose friends they never had. Let’s say there is a corporate project with a prioritized task list including one hundred consecutive tasks. After working a while the team is doing task #5. Then a person with a loud voice becomes interested in task #35. “Hello, my friend PM. Could you do #35 because I’m interested in that. And could you also do it a little differently than planned.” The PM tells her or him that we are doing task #5. Her or his task is #35 and some waiting is required. This person easily becomes angry and noisy. “That PM never gets anything done! Never! Anything! You are not my friend anymore”. PM keeps her or his cool and continues according to the plan and gradually get the project done. PM informs the not-a-friend-anymore when #35 is done and is an integrated part of other 99 done tasks, but she or he doesn’t remember #35 anymore. She or he only remembers that they are not friends and that she or he was not served well by corporate support services.

Unless the big picture, objectives and priorities of a corporate project are understood, agreed and communicated, it is easy to lose ‘friends’ when sticking to the project plan. Sometimes even the corporate management forgets the objectives, listens the noisy ones, and asks PMs why we are giving bad service. Wouldn’t it then be good if we could just forget silly plans and priorities, and jump to #35 when asked. We could make this one person very happy. Tasks #5…34 would be pending, but if no-one kept noise about those, then who cares. We could use voice guided project navigation; jump from task to task according to the loudest noise made. To make this more visible, we could have the whole development team working in one big room. Then someone comes in and asks for the task #35. Everybody would right away drop #5 and hurry to do #35. Wouldn’t that be good customer service. We would have a lot of happy persons and good friends. We would also have a lot of partly done tasks and a never-ending development bustle, but the noisy people would give positive feedback to the top management so we could continue for a long time.

VGPN; the one with the loudest voice gets the highest priority

Voice guided project navigation (VGPN) is an ideal way to run projects in corporations without proper project portfolio and project management practices, and strategic objectives. With VGPN it is possible to make noisy individuals happy individuals by serving them right away. The spirit would be high and we would have a feeling of doing a lot. Nothing significant would actually get done when jumping from one task to another, but at the reserved money would be spent, and keeping the budget is important. We could report that our IT spending is close to industry average and that people are happy. Life is anyway basically about having fun. There might of course also be a large group of unsatisfied, silent people lurking somewhere waiting for real results.

Strategic objectives; those killjoys

On the other hand, if corporate management requires proper project portfolio and project management, and sets strategic objectives we would have to go back to the boring way of preparing and following plans with prioritized tasks. Work would be efficient and planned end results reached. We just would then not serve individuals but the corporation. The management would be happy because we support reaching strategic objectives. The corporation would be more profitable and reward us for good results. Maybe that could make people happy.

The rocky road from VGPM to PPM

If an organization is used to VGPM, the road to project portfolio management ‘PPM’ can be a rocky one. Noisy people are used to get their request started right away, and developers are used to jump from task to task in order to serve their friends. Then comes PPM. Instead of spontaneous requests based on personal interests noisy people should start discussing with the silent ones and agree what to do in order to achieve strategic objectives; they may feel they are losing power. Instead of serving their ‘friends’ developers and project managers should start preparing and following plans; they may feel they are losing the ability to serve individuals as individuals. Aren’t personal relationships important anymore, they ask. Many people, not just project managers, may become grumpy when walking that road. It takes some time and persistency before a VGPM organization is changed to a PPM organization.

The Grumpy Project Manager is a program manager in an international corporation and has over ten years of experience in managing R&D, IT and business development projects. You can read more from the Grumpy PM on his (or her?) blog. S/he can be contacted by email at TheGrumpyProjectManager@gmail.com.

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