Project Manager is an Orchestral Conductor

Large projects take on a life of their own.  They are unwieldly with lots of moving parts and issues coming at us from all sides.  It’s a lot to hold on to so these usually become ‘programs’ and we hire a group of project managers to keep track of all the details.  That’s all well and good – details matter.

Having been responsible for this type of project before but on my own, it’s tough to take a step back from the details and look at the project as a whole.  Where is it heading?  Are we going off the rails with all the problems? Are these ‘normal’ problems and we are continuing in our forward momentum?  Are we going awry?  Is there one cause or one person who is a bottleneck?  Is there a department that is always behind or a person making things overly hard?

I’ve talked about the ART of project management and this is where the rubber hits the road.  This is where the expert resides.  Finding the answers to these questions is being the conductor – looking around at your orchestra, seeing patterns and seeing the difference between symptoms and the real problems.

conductor 1.jpg

Project Plan as a RoadMap

I’ve done a lot of different project plans and I’ve seen a lot more.  I’ve seen people put in a series of status meetings as tasks which only front loads the project level % complete.  I’ve seen Sponsors want individual steps for each repeatable task put in the plan because they feared we would forget them.  I’ve done 5000-line project plans because there was that much to do.  I’ve done little 40-line ones that are very high level and just keep us on track.

All very purposeful and useful and very like a bean counter.

I wish MS project/SmartSheets/etc was more fluid and allowed for us to see past the tasks and look at the project as a river system with lots of small trickles and streams.  All leading into a large river that supported the environment and provided even more than what we originally needed.  Instead, I find projects get blocked and misguided due to not taking the time to do business requirements and not thinking through the design and not taking the time we need to be successful.  Of course, there are constraints of time, resources, and scope but we take short cuts and remove scope due to our misunderstandings and assumptions, so we produce small rivers that don’t support even our basic needs. 

What if we did the right thing from the beginning?  Is that so hard?

big river