This paper is the third of a four-part series in which an attempt has been made to capture the collective wisdom of the leading participants in an extended LinkedIn discussion over the first six months of 2014. The actual original texts have been edited for grammar and spelling to make for easier reading online. The observations quoted are the opinions and property of the contributors as noted.

Published here October 2014.

PART 2 | Introduction | Max Wideman's Thoughts for Further Discussion
Larry Moore | Max Wideman Intervenes with Other Suggestions
Larry Moore | Vince McGevna | Brian Phillips
Mounir Ajam - Cliona O'Hanrahan | David Hatch | PART 4

David Hatch[11] "I'm Here to Help You Make it Work!"

I think we are confusing project success with successful project management.

It is an unfortunate reality that a project manager can do everything right and yet the project can still be considered a failure. It is also true that a project manager can completely lose the plot, yet the client can still consider the project a success.

When I left ICL in 1994 I had a very simple business plan based upon what I had been doing internally for the ICL Group. My role there was to provide the business with skilled management support to deliver business change effectively. One of those skills was project management, but ultimately the success of my role was in helping the business achieve its goals.

The project was the delivery of those goals, and it wasn't my project. I was merely employed to manage aspects of it. As I often said to the project owners and stakeholders at the time "I'm just here to help you make it work", and that's what I still tell my clients today. The success or failure of the project is for them to judge, not me. All I can do is make sure I do my bit successfully.

I also have to be mindful that whether I am judged to have done my bit successfully, is usually heavily influenced by whether my clients achieved what they hoped to achieve with my help. It is immensely frustrating to have to deal with a supplier who does not understand this connection between their clients success and their reputation, and I've come across a few in my career.

@Larry: I agree that ideally the structure of the delivery team should reflect the challenges of the delivery. I divided my last programme into eight projects each of which was charged with the delivery of one aspect of the overall programme. That is: contract negotiation, system replacement, process review, staff re-training, data migration, document migration, service re-structure and management information. There were five project managers involved, as some managed more than one project.

However, I was fortunate as the client was willing to trust my judgment on the best framework for delivery. I have had others that insist that their entire requirement can be handled by a single project, and an agent recently approached me with a client requirement for a nationwide programme to be managed by a single programme manager with no direct reports, and no authority over any of an unspecified number of local projects.

As you say, we don't always get to make the choices. I've known projects to be late and over budget, and still considered a success. Indeed in some instances I've known project boards trade timescales and cost in order to ensure the delivery of a quality product that meets their requirements. I've also known projects delivered on time and budget that have been rejected by their customers, and had to go in and rework the products to salvage the project.

@Larry: whilst I agree entirely with logic of your statement, and every Project/programme should certainly have measureable success criteria defined during its initiation. The fact remains that if the project ends and the customer isn't happy, you still have a problem.

In Part 4 we will sum up what we have learned.

Mounir Ajam - Cliona O'Hanrahan  Mounir Ajam - Cliona O'Hanrahan

11. David Hatch: Experienced Programme/Project Manager
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