• sexta-feira, 5 de abril de 2013

    Why so many professionals say they are managing projects, when in reality they are just reacting to the latest last-minute problems? - parte 1

    Vimos no post anterior uma transcrição do debate realizado em um grupo de gerenciamento de projetos no Linkedin, onde fiz a seguinte pergunta: "Porque tantos profissionais dizem que estão gerenciando projetos, quando na realidade estão apenas apagando incêndios?".  Coloquei a mesma pergunta nos fóruns sobre gerenciamento de projetos no exterior, e os debates foram ainda mais calorosos, com várias pessoas de diversos locais do mundo emitindo sua opinião, até onde contei, haviam 58 comentários, muitos deles são de significante importância, visto que é a visão de culturas diferentes e profissionais com grande experiência na área.  Dessa forma, transcrevo aqui no blog os debates em inglês, já que se trata de um assunto tão importante no âmbito do gerenciamento de projetos.

    Why so many professionals say they are managing projects, when in reality they are just reacting to the latest last-minute problems?

    Ray Funck • My style of management first establishes the goals. Everything else falls under goal headers that I have identified or have been given the directive to accomplish or both. The next portion is detailing based upon my experience doing projects over the years and what it takes to get the job done from the procurement to individual tasks and timelines to be accomplished. Preparation in otherwords. I understand that every contingency cannot be supplied for as things do come out of nowhere or were unforeseen...such is the nature of the beast. However following the 6 P's & R plan it helps me to have less reactionary management and more planned management. (The 6 P's & R is my acronym for "p#ss poor planning produces p#ss poor results). Crude way to describe it but its true. Reactionary could be is like stomping out forest fires and has no plan of action. Some people relish in that. I don't. I can react to it.......but I don't make that standard practice. Technically I suppose you could better describe someone who does that as being involved with "reactionary management". Which is management but not the best way to handle it. The "why" could be anything. Too many projects, not enough resources, lack of support, poor preparation, lack of experience, lack of attention to details, poor communication between company and client, an irrational and over demanding client, client that gets too involved with trying to manage the managed project of the company they hired to do it or just plain lack of organization. It could even be that they are trying to exaggerate their accomplishments in the form of lip service. It is a loaded question with many answers.

    Edilson Barros, PMP® , MBA • Ray, I agree with you, but the way I see the problem is that many companies invest very little in planning and projects, only thinking in the short term. Even when investing in projects, the projects are usually for yesterday. We should abandon the idea of investing in correcting what was decided yesterday and we now see that it was not the best decision to realign the strategic objectives in more realistic goals without spending time with retrospective projects and planning solutions in the past.

    Stu Newman • I do see this a lot in many of my clients...way more time spent reacting to crises and issues that could have been minimized with better planning up front. 

    What I tell them that all too frequently rings true; "Pay me now, or pay me more later..."

    Eric Harris • Don't see the issue. This is the role, the job of managers. Handling issues that crop up. The ability to handle issues efficiently, effectively and minimizing impact is part of what makes a good manager. 

    Forecasting and planning is important but no matter how well you plan, things will change, will happen. Even the most demanding of environments (think NASA, nuclear) where planning and risk management is at its highest level, things happen.

    Having worked on most sides of the business relationship, it is easy to see what "they" missed or how "wrong" their operating strategy is..... Achieving excellence in any aspect of business demands we do, learn then do better, to put it simply. 

    Error free costs $$$ and takes allot of effort to achieve.....something close, well close enough to justify the investment.

    William (Bill) Miller, PE, PMP • The reason project managers end up reacting to last minute problems is because they do not understand or appreciate the value of risk management as part of their planning and management processes. If they would identify the things that could change in their project, evaluate the probability of that event occurring, and develop action plans for the higher probability risks should they occur they would not be reacting to them at the last minute. More importantly, risks come in both positive and negative formats. Project managers that are reacting to correct or minimize the effect of negative risk occurrences are surely not in a position to take advantage of any positive risk opportunity that could occur.

    Victor Chang • Lack of understanding of what real project management is. They think putting out fires is "managing" projects. These folks need 1) training on what real project management is: how to plan, execute, control projects and 2) to be given the authority by their senior management to act like project managers.

    Frank Henriksen • Well said. It shows how the proffession "Project Management" is rated by the upper management in many cases.

    Mandeep Kalra • Totally agree with Victor Chang. Its not project management if manager is reacting at last minute. Thats where Project management skills comes handy

    Bob Vandenberg • PM manage project as proactively as they can and recognize that they might have to do a fire drill at times to react to some situation unforeseen, not preedicted, etc. A "fire fighter" goes from blaze to blaze, reacting while wishing they could get a handle on their project, let alone be proactive

    Eric Harris • PM's who do not plan ahead, who allow team or activity leaders to "wholely own" their tasks, who show up each day and do what what they can....are not PM's in my book, they are firefighters at best. At times the Org is dysfunctional to a point where the PM is forced to manage day by day, week by week. There is the ideal of PM and then there is the project environment your in. 

    As one who promotes RM as part of my business, would I like to see more time spent on strategy and planning at concept stage, like to see more time spent on RM throughout execution/implementation? Would better RM have a direct impact to most all facets of project delivery? Impact the satisfaction factor at work? Of course! Is RM the "magic pill" to project challenges? Of course not!

    Have felt a PM's time is their own to manage. If you don't seem to have enough time, you are probably spending it on the wrong things. Feeling overwhelmed or overburdened is within a PM's capacity to control by where time is spent and when. 

    Have had projects where firefighting was the norm, turnarounds can be like that. Have also had projects which went so well was able to focus majority of my time on quality, training and raising the bar. If it was the same thing, day after day, week after week, year after year...it would not be PM, it would be operations. 

    We as PM's live in a changing environment, doing what has seldom been done before, that's why its called a project. Influence maybe, control, no. Striving to control outcomes and influence direction is the essence of what we do. Pushing the rock up the hill.

    It is easy to look through the window and see what's wrong. I like to see what's right 1st. Current state is essential to understand when joining an effort or starting one or change is being considered. We change what we can and live thru the rest.

    Sanjeev Arora, PMP ® • Quite a few good comments, and the topic is not just a question, it is a classical symptom of firefighters calling themselves PMs (there will be other situations where PMs need to firefight but those are different situations). However, why does the fire flare up so much in the first place? "Fire Fighters", to do their jobs, need the flare ablaze in the system (not necessarily they always create it by intention). If a person(s) calling themselves PM did not do the PM job as expected to be done by a PM, ... say did not do Risk Management, or tracked issues to closure, did not manage triple constraint, etc and were busy doing other stuff, then what do expect in the project other than fire.

    If you see a PM (or a org where PMs) actively spending quite some time on business analysis, technical consulting, tech trouble shooting, and other stuff than doing PM related work, you will find fire fighting in that project/org. To reconfirm, you may want to review their risk, issue & actions etc logs & the minutes for their meetings, costing, resource plan etc and map them to the symptoms of the fire they are handling. Either these documents will be missing or will be quite inadequately managed…

    I liked what Eric mentioned above; FFs calling them selves PMs can be attributed to dysfunctional Org... or this can be a fitment issue if this is not prevalent in the Org.

    Nimai Meher • Nice Topic chosen by Edilson. 
    Normally this happens only when PM is not knowledgable enough to visualize issues which are going to come due to somebody's mistake. This leads the PM and whole team into damage control mode. 
    Being proactive is the only way to come out of this problem. 


    Ray Funck • To reference to Eric's comments. I understand your angle. I see it as being based upon your level of performance. Which I am sure is quite good. It is understood or should be that there will always be some risk management involved. That is the nature of the beast. It was my impression that the discussion centered more on flagrant reactionary management that is out of balance with any type of preparatory planning. It can be those little things that come back and bite you. The approach I presume many take in regards to a project is to first assess the real expectations, communicate that to the appropriate parties, ensure that the members of the team understand those, supply them with the tools they need to accomplish the tasks and provide the support during the process to aid in completion then to report the results. As for error free, I would challenge anyone to show me an example of that! I have never seen it no matter how well conceived. As for cost......in my view there is a fine line between constant call-backs that cost money for the customer and doing it right the first time. Developing a situation where it is beneficial to the provider but with no compensation to the customer in regards to money can also affect the integrity of the sourcing company. There is a balance. Of course everything is contingent upon what information is available from the onset and how much time is allocated to complete the project. I truly believe that the quality of work a company does will be ultimately reflected in their bottom line in the long run. They might be able to run it with reactionary style for a while but sooner or later the customer as well as potential employees will know that about a company and move on to someone else that exudes a more organized approach. Reaction to unforeseen developments or changes in work orders is a necessary function to perform in any company. Projects or otherwise.

    Irwan Yulianto • Interesting topic Edilson! 
    At first reaction I do feel you, as I've experienced such environment. The boss just threw an objective, the so-called Project Manager tried to complete the objective without any knowledge of project management. No risk management resulted in firefighting when all risks triggered, known risks as well as unknown risks. 

    All boiled down to: 
    1. lack of risk management. No proper plan for known risks. 
    2. lack of project management discipline that monitor and control are iterative. Being proactive helped me many times to uncover previously unknown risks, create mitigation plan and response plan around them, just before they triggered. 
    3. lack of authority given to PM is another culprit. I experienced situation when a PM tried to exercise risk management, but due to lack of authority all Subject Matter Experts didn't really "respond" to him. Thus known risks to the SMEs became unknown risks to the PM. Same final result: last minute firefighting when the risk triggered.

    Geoff Warnock • In the world of 'change' - the 'project' reigns supreme. By it's very definition, a project is a change-agent. To manage change, you have to divide that change into two management components - the strategic management plan component and the tactical management plan component. I see 'fire fighters' have been mentioned here. They have a strategic plan for fighting fires that determines their training and equipment. The tactical plan is made once they are one scene and an assessment of the situation has been made. A plan is developed quickly by the lead person and off they go using that plan that's based on knowledge, skills, and abilities that were derived from the strategic plan (safety, doctrine, etc.) In Project Management - the "Project Management Plan" is the 'strategic plan' and the daily operations (work package execution, risk register updates, communications, contract work, etc.) are all executed in a tactical manner to support that strategic plan. Therein lies the spectrum upon which PM's operate - from development of a strategic plan to the execution of that plan with specific tactics. It's a continuum that the better the strategic plan, the better the knowledge, skills, and abilities of the PM and their project team, the better the management of 'the plan' and the leadership to execute 'the plan' - the better the results. There is an endless litany of questions, problems, moans, groans, and complaints about PM's and poor project management. We hear about it all the time and blame the PM without usually looking at the circumstances. Many times, we have 'project engineers' whose only project management knowledge stems from a 16-hour course in college, or the enactment of the well-discussed 'halo effect' whereby the very best "Engineer / Technician / Manager / Whatever" is elevated to Project Manager by management that wouldn't know a project management plan from a Gantt Chart. The results are too obvious. I think the first thing we (as PM's) need to do is educate everyone that will listen as to what constitutes a 'success project' in the first place and then what IS this thing we call 'Project Management'? If you see an organization low in Project Management Maturity, you'll probably also see them low in other aspects such as general management maturity, poor or low levels of 'leadership', etc. So the reason they do poorly is because most of the time they're poorly led and managed at other issues as well. We cannot bemoan the poor PM in over his head, we need to support, educate, and reveal methods that work. It's a slow process but sometimes, someone will 'get it' and perhaps want to know more and effect change within the organization.

    Umakant kulkarni • Whatever analysis is made and studied , finally we land up into firefighting business . Rather than working pro-actively , what is important is environment and circumstances you deal with . Since this is all about team work , PM alone can not push the whole block individually . What varies is percentage for fire , you are to deal with . To my experience , PM can reduce this percentage and can not stop it . This is always upgrading oneself with all experiences . Umakant

    Cheryl Allen • In my experience as a consultant, some organizatinal cultures respect and reward the "firefighter" for his or her coming up with high visibility last minute solutions to crises. Unfortunately, in these cultures, the effective project manager whose project runs smoothly because of good planning and risk management is not as visible and so is not rewarded. A disincentive to effective project management. Has anyone else seen this in action??

    Sanjeev Arora, PMP ® • @ Cheryl, that is so true. An aggressive fire fighter is quite visible due to noisy issues through the execution. The accidental successes get rewarded in dysfunctional organizations where people do not have distinction between project success and outcome/product delivery success (a failed project may still deliver an acceptable product).

    Ray Funck • Yes Cheryl I have. Many times. I have experienced it myself after reflection on completions and facts and how it relates to other members and their productivity and the feedback I receive from their customers or those that have worked with them.

    Ray Funck • Eric to quote your comment, "PM's who do not plan ahead, who allow team or activity leaders to "wholely own" their tasks, who show up each day and do what what they can....are not PM's in my book, they are firefighters at best. At times the Org is dysfunctional to a point where the PM is forced to manage day by day, week by week. There is the ideal of PM and then there is the project environment your in." 

    Interestingly enough I am in a situation like that right now. The person is intelligent and knows what they are doing but the outward appearance has all the earmarks (at least with no documentation to present activities, project timelines, milestones, etc.) that there is no planning and the team is, "wholly owning" their tasks. Those that have a need to know from the customer viewpoint and upper management viewpoint both recognized this. I am trying to work with that PM to correct that. They have been doing it that way so long it takes some convincing to get them to see it in a different light. I cannot place all the responsibility on the PM though as I have seen other areas that are dysfunctional during my evaluation to identify and label causes.

    Anjali Tandon • Though the requirements change mostly on the last phase of the project cycle it is obvious the reactions happen and that is notified always too.. 

    It cannot be said on whole that initiative is not taken to manage the projects as the last moment changes always crack the sound of thunder

    Bernie Leadbeater • The following is not about a project, but is still relevant, I think. Many years ago I was a freelance computer programmer in an IT support team. We supported critical systems 24 * 7, and were regularly called out in the middle of the night to fix systems that had failed. We were seen as heroes. After a while, I got bored with getting no sleep and persuaded my boss too give me a resource to start to fix the underlying problems. Very soon things were running much more smoothly, and we were no longer being called out to do emergency fixes. We were no longer heroes, and in fact I was out of a job, as the need for support was much reduced. It seems that the firefighters get all the glory, while those who go about their business in a controlled, methodical way, achieving success without any obvious problems, are just taken for granted.

    Elisabeth Schlegel • I agree with Cheryl'd description of managemental culture. On the other hand, why not include firefighters into the project plan? Contincencies will happen, and if accounted and planned for (together with the firefighter), everything will run smooth or can be remediated quickly. I am running ccoperatively educational events for large classes of students, and I always have some manpower on standby in case the software breaks down. We have a reputation to be successful, but the secret is really in the planning of possibilities. It is comparable to having the paramedics ready at sport events.

    Mark Palmquist, PMP, CDP • Three potential reasons why a Project Manager fights fires come easily to mind: vague project charter, poor planning, and ignoring risks.

    Stefano Orlandi • I think the project management is first of all a mental approach.
    If you have the ability to see over the single issue and create an environment in wich the project grows you can really manage the project. This activity is supported by all the PM techniques you can find, but Project Management I think is not only a good gantt or histogram. The project management is a time consuming activity and it costs.
    If a company believes in the benefits of this you can have good PM in other case you will have good firefighters.

    Lloyd Mwaluku • I think it bows down to the complexity of the project and whether the project manager really understand the solution being developed. I have been involved in a number of projects where a Project Manager end up loosing track of the situation because of this idea of "managing a project".

    Gideon Koch • Cheryl'd description of management culture…. 

    As a firefighters consultant called whenever things go wrong and the client wants the company to show plans, design and documentation including risks, I would summaries my founding: 

    1. Project Manager does not have the engineering knowledge to plan the project. 
    2. The executive management urge to start perform rather to wait and complete the design and planning phases. 
    3. Risk management is something tells the customer we have done it. 
    4. If the project manager is not "noisy" and is not in constant running around to put out fires, than he is not a project manager 

    Great issue, Cheryl.

    Consolini Maximo F • maybe managing it's harder than firefighting ........... projects

    Rich Hermes • It seems that many of the responders don't consider PMs to be true PM's if they encounter this situation. I would disagree. Many projects are managed well by good PMs but quite often, a crisis arises, not by failure of risk management or good project planning, but by some other person who has no idea of the impact they make by getting involved where they don't belong. By the time the PM is aware, it has become a crisis no one could foresee. A good PM will be able to "react" and control the situation thru intervention. Good PM's will be able to "firefight" as needed.

    Tammo Wilkens, P.E., PMP • I think Cheryl Allen has a good point. I have noticed that this fire fighting (which I call "the project du jour") is a phenomenon of our modern high tech culture. The ability to communicate and produce results in short time has given upper managers the feeling that everything can be done "today", leading to the fire fighting, i.e. the project of the day. I've been in situations where every upper management request was expected to be completed "before you go home" or otherwise immediately. There was no concern for other tasks currently in the works. Naturally, this led to total caos as the regular planned work had little chance getting done amongst the constant restructuring of priorities into crises. 

    One solution, not very favorable with upper management, is to hire more people to man the fire brigade for those tasks that simply can't wait. 

    Certainly planning (AND WORKING THE PLAN) have a lot to do with avoiding haphazard reaction to the latest crisis. However, the unexpected will appear. But when it appears every day, then there is a corporate cultural problem that needs to be addressed. It seems to me, from my experience, that crises should not appear more frequently than about once a week. 

    Also, along with this issue is the matter of the PM's authority. Many companies hire so-called PMs and then don't give them the authority to make decisions. All commitments and decisions of any significance require "upper" approval. That is not management. Management is the ability (i.e. authority) to make decisions and commitments. When that is absent, the so-called PM is merely a project coordinator.

    Dagoberto Segura. Eng, MSc-PM, PMP® • Because they do not know hot to manage a project. People who know and practice the professional project management can not say thta " they are managing projects, when in reality they are just reacting to the latest last-minute problems".

    Babu Kishore • Agree with Segura above. Professional project management managers cannot say 'they are reacting to last-minute issues' all the time. Once in a while, yes, definitely, such need(s) arises, but not always. If such is the case, then - either there's something wrong with the project itself or with the person managing it.

    Tammo Wilkens, P.E., PMP • :) These last 2 comments (as well as others that put the blame on the PM) are a bit harsh. May be partly true, but it's not always the PM's fault nor under his/her control. See my previous comment. 

    My pholosophy is that when someone is not performing up to par, including the PM, the first place to look is at that person's supervisor/boss. It's like pointing fingers at someone. When you do, you'll notice that 3 fingers point back at you. Management at any level is empowerment of those you manage. It is the manager's job to provide whatever is needed to the person being managed. 

    So, the question that needs to be answered first is where do the crises come from? Poor planning? Maybe. Unreasonble demands? Likely. "Acts of God"? Sometimes. Other reasons? Possibly. Find the cause of the situation and then you can resolve it.

    Andrei Colta • Great topic, I am an System Engineer, I want to grow and be a good PM in future, could somebody help with books that will help me.
    13 dias atrás• Gostei (desfazer) 1


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