Thursday, May 3, 2012

The One Most Important Thing

I always start to laugh when I see questions like “What is the one most important thing that a project manager should do to be successful?” posted on sites such as LinkedIn. 

There are hundreds of things that a project manager needs to do on a project, and all can be very important at a particular point in time, depending on the project size, complexity and phase.  So trying to pin down one as the most important thing is surely futile.

However, upon further reflection, I think there is indeed “one most important thing” that a project manager should do, for all projects and at all times, and that is to maintain a strong passion for, focus on and commitment to project goals.

All goals should be SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-based). 
Perhaps the best and most concise example ever of a SMART goal, was the goal set by President Kennedy on May 25, 1961:
“I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth”.

In spite of the many financial, logistical and technological obstacles encountered, this most ambitious goal was spectacularly and completely achieved with the Apollo 11 mission landing on the moon on July 20 followed by the safe  splashdown of the astronauts on July 24, 1969.

A SMART project goal could be:
“The goal of our (name project) is to deliver the committed functionality by (cutover date) within budget ($$$), so that we may meet (specify the key project objectives) to the complete satisfaction of all our stakeholders.”

Now here’s the scary part. According to studies by The Standish Group, only about one third of all projects are completed successfully.  This tells me that in spite of the generally high levels of expertise, methodologies, tools and technologies applied to projects, we still have a long way to go before we can consistently meet what should be readily  attainable project goals - goals which are usually set by us in the first place.

On any project of significant size today, there are many financial, technological and other obstacles and challenges that impede or prevent project goals from being achieved.  Without a high level of passion, motivation and commitment to project goals by the project manager, it is highly improbable that the project will succeed, no matter what resources, methodologies, tools and techniques are brought to bear on the project. 
The project managers who are most likely to achieve the project goals are those who ensure the goals are highly visible in every facet of their project, are passionate and excited about the goals and are highly committed and motivated to achieve them.

Your thoughts?

1 comment:

  1. You have raised some great points - I agree that without strong goals that meet the requirements of a SMART goal that you have outlined above, a lot of project managers will find their projects wallowing.

    I'm looking forward to reading future posts!


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