Monday, 1 August 2011

HEADLINE: Woody Allen goes looking for the Holy Grail?

Project Management is and enormous subject.  If you Google search for "Project Management": 359,000,000 results (0.14 seconds).  There are hundreds and thousands of courses, software, technologies, frameworks on how to do projects. However there are also hundreds and thousands of stories about failure of projects across organisations. Apparently: “one-third of all money spent on software is used to repair botched projects, with billions spent each year reworking software that doesn't fit requirements."

What memories do you have of projects at your workplace?  Great success all round? Be honest now.  Let's take and example.  Often, cost-saving projects – really do lead to savings - but also lead to stress, incomprehension and hostility. So how do we ensure we deliver results without delivering unwanted side effects?

At Pentacle we have begun to think that the challenge is in the projects themselves.  Because they are all different, advice from one person on how to achieve success is irrelevant on a different project.  In fact their advice might make your chances of success worse.  And also what you learn personally about projects may also trip you up.  And as a leader your success on one project might convince you that the  most important thing is the passion and encouragement you give your team.  But what if the next project which comes along demands listening and support rather than gung-ho energy?

Pentacle has tried to find a way to group these differences.  One group of projects we noticed is a group that has clear goals but there is plenty of ambiguity and choice in how to deliver.  We looked around for a suitable metaphor/ analogy and found one in history.  In Olde England there is a legend about a King Called Arthur who sent all his knight out searching for decades for a single object, the Holy Grail (the cup Christ is supposed to have drunk from).  There was no problem with the objective the challenge was with the best way to find it.  Where to look?  And how?  On their quest the knights rode to the four corners of the world, clear on what they were to achieve but having absolutely no idea about how they were going to do it.

Another group we noticed seemed to fit the analogy/ metaphor of making movies.  Yes cameras and actors are going to be involved.  And maybe some CGI.  But what is the subject?  What is the script?

Once you start to see the pattern you begin to understand why your personal learning and leadership approach could easily trip you up.  King Arthur was probably perfect for his Quest, Woody Allen for a romantic comedy movie .

But what do you think would happen if you swapped them round and put King Arthur in charge of delivering the romantic comedy?

At Pentacle we think that understanding what type of project you are dealing with is the first step in delivering  successful projects.  That way you can decide in advance what the leadership style and behaviours you should use to best guarantee success.  That way you'll never see the headline "Woody Allen goes in search of the Holy Grail"