Here is the scenario: you are the leader of a group and you have been given the responsibility of driving the completion of a new initiative, an early or late-stage drug or devices program, or a software implementation. The completion date and budget are not perfect, but doable. But fast forward to lessons learned (post-project completion) and almost nothing about the project went as expected. It was a nightmare. You aged a few years, gained some pounds, suffered several mini-panic attacks, and maybe only had a few moments of peace throughout the implementation.
You wonder to yourself – when and why did everything go astray? Project management is not that hard. I am not doing brain surgery for goodness sakes!
1. You did not spend time planning; you just jumped in and began the project. Unless you enjoy pain, never do this with mid-to-large projects. Avoiding planning and jumping into the work can be problematic as this prevents time considering “done,” timelines, impacts, and just the viewpoints of several stakeholders. There are some small projects called, “Just Do It,” but they are much smaller in scope and scale and can be quickly completed in under a few days. You, however, do not want to upgrade your global PV software with no or minimal planning.
2. Your boss wants you to use Agile to deliver the project, but a team member wants Waterfall, and another wants <Insert Cool Name> causing rifts and delays on project execution. This typically results in a methodology that is chosen that may not be the best fit for the project or the correct methodology is selected, and unhappy stakeholders are needlessly questioning the efficacy of the implementation since their preferred approach was not chosen. Either way, project execution is negatively impacted.
3. You have a full-time job, but you are also the ongoing project manager. Globally, for the average person, a work week is 35-45 hours. If this is a high priority project that requires a full-time PM commitment, where is this person going to find additional time to put together status reports, run team meetings, manage the project plan, address issues/risks, etc.? Asking this person to do both will ultimately result in delays, then failure.
4. Your project manager has no clue what they are doing, but no one wants to take them off of the project. As leaders in organizations, it is wonderful to want to give someone a growth opportunity. But not everyone is ready for “prime time.” Putting the wrong person in charge of a project could cause unforced compliance, process, technical, or financial problems and definitely delays.
5. Timelines are hopeful and suggestions to your team. A project plan should not be as fantastical or as optimistic like whatever comes out of a summer blockbuster movie. It needs to be rooted in a reality that reflects the state and urgency of the project. Further, it must be the project team’s respected source of truth.
6. The project is running very late, has several risks and issues coming up, but the project status is green. This is what we call delusional. There is no universe where the project is delayed, there are numerous issues and risks, and everything is fine. All too often, project teams do this as no one wants to be the contrarian and point out that not everything is ok. Battling the temptation to not present everything as perfect is tough, but the alternative is undergoing a too-late, red-faced discussion to senior leadership about why downstream financial or compliance goals cannot be met, per the communicated timelines.
7. You recently implemented very cool and expensive PM software which you thought would make all of your project implementations successful, but that did not happen. Technology is an enabler to realizing your process goals. It should not be the core of your process. It is no substitute for implementing your project using core project management fundamentals. If the project management approach is flawed, then the software will only produce beautiful, but flawed outputs.
8. You ignored your colleagues, resisted the option to get external support, and now everything is in shambles. While no one doubts your (or your colleagues’) intelligence and ability to drive a project, external organizations can provide that additional support, brain power, and resources that your group cannot, for the moment.
The above are not the only reasons why projects struggle, but these are some of the common reasons we have observed. One key take-away from reading this is that you should be realistic, proactive, and ready to make common-sense decisions that meet the needs of your projects. The other is that yes, project management is much easier than brain surgery, you just need the right approach.
If you do need help with project implementation, the talented team at ProPharma Group would love to help you!
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