The Fifth Most Ugliest Project Management Challenge

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Does your director reward you for responding to urgent needs? ……And the problem is that all their needs are urgent. You have sympathy for your manager since you know how your company needs to keep up with the competition. But responding to constantly changing management needs causes your project plan to have more holes than Swiss cheese.

In a recent survey I took of 30 project participants; the problem of everything being “Urgent” was a key pain point. When everything is urgent and the urgent priorities also are in churn, increase project success by “planning the work and working the plan.”Does this advice seem counter-intuitive? I understand how you feel. Rewarding chaos is not just a Silicon Valley problem. It is a problem that resonates with project managers across many industries and cultures. But the project management cure for counter-acting this management tendency is the same:    

  • Project managers plans the work
  • Stakeholders sign-off on scope
  • Requirements are baselined
  • Project team formally manages changes to the baseline

This cure means that you work the baseline plan until management formalizes project changes. In the meantime – keep working the plan. If management can destabilize work with verbal direction, you are not doing project work. Projects require approved budgets, schedule expectations that realistically support scope. Without this framework of cost, time and performance, you are managing to-do list; not a project.

Creating a project that has cost, time and scope is required for any size project. Flexibility is not a tactic for managing chaos. Formality, even a short one-page charter to plan the work, signatures for approval and weekly change control review is needed to create an environment that withstands disruptive project changes.

Let me know if your organization is drowning in the “urgent.”  I look forward to hearing from you.

Posted on behalf of Rosemary Hossenlopp





1 thought on “The Fifth Most Ugliest Project Management Challenge”

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    I really liked the statement about managing a to-do list versus managing a project.

    Even on the small projects that I usually manage (2 months or less in duration) I have found it liberating and stabilizing to use a formal change management process and stick to my guns. If I can do it on small projects, it can certainly be done on medium and large projects.

    Josh Nankivel

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