Project Management: Art to the Rescue!
"Is project management more of a science or more of an art form?"
Today’s business executives are asking their managers and employees “to do more… with less”. Fewer Project Managers are leading more projects with poor results, the latest Standish Group – Chaos Report shows that only 28% of IT projects succeed. Many believe that the key to Project success in not applying technical management principles, but rather, more artful soft skills such as communication and creativity. (Belzer, 2004).
This case study will present and discuss why the application of soft skills will help today’s stressed-out Project Managers implement ...view middle of the document...
Applying a scientific systematic formula to the project provides for effective and efficient use of resources.
Successful projects, those that deliver value to the organization, use proven Project Life Cycle models such as the standard ISO model. (Greer, 1999). Following a “cookie-cutter” approach such the ISO standard is a very scientific management style which requires discipline from the manager.
While a rigid management style may get line items checked-off, it can sometimes lead to failure as the end-user may be intimidated by the strict discipline. For instance, City Hospital in the U.K. had a disastrous IT deployment of an automated system. A post-study found that while the contractor Oracle, had done the proper step of getting end-users involved in the analysis, the users supplied inaccurate data which was used in the development phase and ended up as flaws in the final product. Various reasons were given for the flawed input such as; hurried users, wrong users and users embarrassed to admit they didn’t understand the system. (Brown, 1998)
Following a strict systematic guideline is sometimes self-defeating. That is, leaders and participants can act to avoid failure but don’t for fear of deviating from the plan. (Brown, 1998).
It’s not just rigid planning that reduces project success, it could be the organizational culture. For example, companies that minimize concurrent active projects have better success than those that always have projects on-going or “in the pipe”. (Worthington, 2001).
Strictly following scientific principles doesn’t equate to instant failure. Studies show that successful projects are directly related to thoroughly documented needs for the project. (Greer, 1999). Organizations that perform scientific risk analysis on the personal, technical, and legal aspects have better project success. (Worthington, 2001).
Up to this point it has been shown that strictly apply hard skills to project management can have both a detrimental effect or help to increase the chance for success. The hard skills are the tools, effective application of these tools requires more than formulas and standards. A flexible and creative mind can apply hard skills to effectively manage complex projects to achieve business objectives and financial success. The following section provides a discussion why project management is more art than science.
The goal of Project Management is to complete projects deemed important to achieving business objectives. Successful project management completes deliverables on time, with in budget, and acceptable to the customer. (Belzer, 2004). In addition to being an expert “juggler” successful project leaders have many artistic skills. Like a painter, talented managers create a detailed picture of the deliverables so the project sponsors can see the finished product. The manager uses both graphics and visual writing skills to describe the project tasks and deliverables.