Square Peg, Round Hole

Do you expect to see a Michelin star Chef sweating it out in the local take-away cafe or would you ask a first-year apprentice electrician to manage the wiring of a new 20 storey commercial building – your answer is probably NO because their skills and experience don’t match the job they are performing.

Do you hear corridor conversations like this in your workplace…who do you have that can take on this new project for me; can I have Jane she did a great job last time; what vendor will we use this time; not sure Bob is aware he is responsible for that – you got the picture or are you the one having the conversation. Stop for a minute and think about it – it’s crazy organisations invest significant time and dollars in developing workforce capabilities yet continue to squeeze a square peg into a round hole.

Just because you have performed the role of a Project Sponsor or Project Manager doesn’t mean your next project assignment will match your capabilities. Yes, you have one or more project success stories to share and have a result driven attitude to solve problems, but maybe this time your story will not have such a great ending.

This project is high risk with integration of complex technologies, a multi-layered funding model, diverse stakeholder groups who do not get along and it represents the biggest change the organisation is about to dive into. What do you do? Jump right in and take the challenge head on although you know you are not the right fit because your skills and previous project experience has been mostly in changes to existing simple systems with the same stakeholder groups or do you call it out and say give it to someone else.

There is no right or wrong answer. The key is to be self-aware and make informed evidence-based project decisions. Anything is possible if you have the right balance of manageable risk and experienced resources.

Consider these three components to agree the perfect match for the project type to right person combination.

1. Understand the four project types

From business as usual (operational) to transform (strategic), the project types represent higher levels of risk for an organisation determined by:

  • The size of the change affecting the staff, customers and community
  • The time it takes for the change to happen, will it be done in a blink of an eye or still talking about it in five years
  • The frequency of the change, does it happen often or once every ten years
  • The reputation of the change, this is core business and is expected or is it a product/service new to the market

2. Assess the project complexity

The more moving parts that have to be managed the higher the level of complexity determined by such things as:

  • The funding source, budget amount and control required for cashflow
  • The number of different stakeholder groups and their communication needs
  • The processes and requirements are simple or not yet fully understood
  • The use of technologies and number of integration points with other systems

3. Assess the project capabilities

There is no better way to learn than performing the role. The need for a project manager with developing skills or expert status can be determined by such things as:

  • The level of support provided by an organisation, is there a mature project management practice in place or programs to access mentors and coaches
  • The scalability of the project delivery methodology to be fit for purpose
  • The relationships and experience of vendors engaged to do the work

Don’t rely on pot luck to form your best project team. Plan your resource requirements six months ahead, be deliberate in your selection of the right person for the role and be prepared to pay more for a specialist or allow more time for staff to learn new skills to get the results you are after.

Cheers ~ JC

Written by Jeanette Cremor
Independent Project Consultant

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