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A Compelling Perspective on Project Management


There’s an interesting article entitled, “What the hell is project management anyway?” Sure, it’s aimed at an audience not involved in project management but it provides some compelling perspective any project manager should find interesting.

Kevin Purdy, writing at FastTrack.com, did a Q&A with Frank Ryle, a 20-year veteran of the field, and author of the e-Book, Keeping Score: Project Management for the Pros.
Here’s a snippet from the book that brings together golf and project management. “Assuming that a golfer has correct alignment and backswing, then he/she can confidently attack the ball and enjoy the feeling of the clubface compressing the ball at speed. Similarly, if a Project Manager (PM) has carried out proper initiation and planning of a project, then he/she should be in a position to enjoy the exhilaration of seeing a team performing with talent and speed.”
In his Q&A, Ryle offers interesting views. One of the best is the evolution of the position of project manager, which he describes as a relatively recent phenomena.
He told Purdy, “Project management was just a thing you did, a job you had, but nobody wrote about it just a little while ago. You weren’t a ‘Project Manager’ in the 80’s and 90’s, but when something went good or bad, everybody else stepped backwards, and you were the one left. Project managers were the only ones who could talk about the process, not just the product. And, usually, you were the person who had the charm to do it.”
Ryle offers good insight on what attributes a good project manager should have. It’s not someone who sees things in black and white. It’s more along the lines of that inspirational statement to write your mistakes in sand and cast your successes in stone.
He says, “You should be comfortable with ambiguity. You have to be willing to reshape the rule, the process, whenever things change. It’s really important to be comfortable with people too, different cultures, so much of business being international now. You’ll be called to walk into a situation where you don’t know the people you’re working with, maybe not even where, or their genders, and say, ‘How do I work with these people?’ You’ll have to create a bit of a roadmap for yourself, and, hopefully, be likeable enough to get by.”
Ryle further expands on that point of view at his blog, Keeping Score: The Book. “PM methodologies do not typically exploit opportunities. Most successful project organizations maintain the flexibility to capture and benefit from opportunities in time, scope, and cost that occur on projects. Methodologies, by their nature, do not allow this lateral, out-of-the-box approach. Advice from a senior investment banker who shuns standard methods sums up her successful approach to projects with these words — Consult widely. Decide quickly. Act swiftly.”
Technology is also a topic that Ryle provides a refreshing perspective on. “I think technology has given us a wonderful communications tool. But it’s made us more efficient, not more effective. There’s a difference: Remote working has put us in a position of having to impress our bosses, giving constant feedback, which is not what every project manager wants. The point of getting somebody to do something is to get it done, not to have them impress you.”
He predicts that software that truly meets project management needs is still a few years off. “When you wanted to get a team working on something back when, you’d get them together in a room, they’d pass bits of paper around, and they’d get it done. Once software actually gets us to that condition again, then we’re effective,” Ryle said.

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