You don’t have to develop a project plan, as long as you do this:

“Why do I have to develop a Work Breakdown Structure Dictionary? It takes too much time.” To this question and similar ones from project managers, my answer is: You Don’t.  You really do not have to, as long as you are 100% sure your project will succeed, AND your organization will learn from this project to improve future projects.  If you can guarantee that, and be accountable for it, then by all means; do not waste a minute on planning.  And you can blame me for it.  Is this semantics, or is there an important message here? Please do read on.

For more times than I care to remember, I encounter passionate project managers who believe they can deliver successful projects in an Adhoc fashion.  They depend on their wits, politics, street smarts, and leadership to deliver successful projects, without much formal project management.  Some of the seasoned ones succeed.  Some fail.  I will give here real-life examples of both:

Meet Mo; the best project manager in his company.  He handles certain types of projects and does that superbly.  He is not interested in anything the PMBOK has to offer.  He can succeed in his projects without any of that.  In reality, he is succeeding.  I saw his work first hand: clients are satisfied, work is getting done, the scope is being delivered, and payments are being received.  Beautiful picture.  And all of that without “wasting” a minute on formal planning.  How does he do it? I will tell you.  He relies on Exel to create simple quick models to plan and track his project.  Mainly punch lists.  He checks everything before he does the work.  He spends an ample amount of time building rapport with the customer.  But he does not have any formal scope definition beyond the contract.  His project schedule is just a skeleton to meet the reporting requirements of the client.  No quality plan, communication plan, or risk register.  But he stays close to the client, the team, and the suppliers.  He manages them well.  He uses his “expert” power in his field to make others listen when he speaks.

The above is a good picture, but not good enough.  Do you see the problem with the above? Let me demonstrate: Mo left the company abruptly upon getting a lucrative offer he could not refuse.  He is “irreplaceable” to his company because he never followed a structured approach.  So his replacement will now do things according to their style.  This means each project manager in the company will do things their way, without any consistency in how we deliver.  Clients are at the mercy of the style and even mood of the project manager and how capable and engaged they are in the project.

This is why I always say when project managers complain about following an agreed-upon process and PM good practices: We do it not because we want to plan, or we want to develop a communication plan or a quality plan, but because without them we cannot a) ensure consistently delivering successful projects across the organization, and 2) we cannot ensure we keep learning and improving in how we deliver projects.

Comments (1)

  1. I have met project managers who had the same mentality and one of them, even, shared with me some pages from a book that sells this idea in contrast of projects that has failed to deliver it’s promise (cost-overrun, legal issues, project delays for years,..etc) where all these projects follow a PM methodology.
    The alternative method (they suggest) is to ad-hoc manage the project .. they use special techniques of “bargaining” to trade-off requirements and delays ..etc. i was amazed with what other PMs can do, it looks like doing an underground business! it does not feel right to me.

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