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Why Project Management Fails


Tim Bryce

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I was talking to a consultant in the Philadelphia area recently who was lamenting about the state of Project Management in this country.  He had been employed for over thirty years as a Project Manager in plant construction, was certified in his craft, yet found the state of project management to be quite primitive, which is surprising when you consider all of the tools available for managing projects these days.  This led to a dialog as to why the state of project management had deteriorated.  I contended this was nothing new and should not come as a surprise.  I then cited four reasons for the problem:

First, as my friend suggested, people tend to take a tool oriented approach to project management as opposed to thinking the problem through themselves.  Here is another area where we have created a dependency on technology and come down with a bad case of the stupids when it fails us.  The scope of project management is large and consists of a variety of concepts and techniques, most of which are not complicated and could be easily taught, but are not.  Consequently, college students graduate knowing how to use certain tools, but lack insight into basic concepts which hinders their ability to solve problems and work with others.

Second, executive management does not have an appreciation of project management either and does not understand its scope, nor the integration of concepts.  For example, project planning is required prior to developing an estimate, which then fuels scheduling, all of which is a precursor for effective project reporting.  Some executives naively believe project management is nothing more than producing a schedule or buying computer software to record worker time.  Some even think project management is cheap and refuse to invest in proper training for their people or acquiring an integrated set of tools for them to use.

Third, project management is necessary when you need to control multiple people on multiple projects with complicated work breakdown structures.  However, it falls flat in this age of short term thinking where there is a tendency to attack smaller bite-size project assignments in a "quick and dirty" manner (aka "agile").

Last but not least, it must be remembered that project management is a people oriented function, not administrative, clerical or technical.  In other words, Project management is a philosophy of management, not a specific tool or technique.  It is getting people to complete project assignments on time, on schedule, within budget, and in a particular sequence.  If the truth were known, there is nothing complicated about Project Management; it just requires discipline, organization, and accountability; three ugly words in today's business vernacular.

At the end of the phone call, my friend thanked me for being a sounding board and said he felt better after talking with me.  I replied I wasn't surprised, after all, misery loves company.

About the Author

Tim Bryce is the Managing Director of M. Bryce & Associates (MBA) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at

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Article Published/Sorted/Amended on Scopulus 2009-10-22 12:04:39 in Employee Articles

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