It’s often said that it’s not what you know, it’s who you know.
Well, if you are to survive in Project Management, you need to a foot firmly in both camps.
You don’t need to know every intricate technical detail of your project, you will have people that have that covered for you. And, of course you will be able to bluff your way through any probing that may come your way. Make sure you have your generals in place.
You don’t need to be on intimate terms with everyone in your organisation. However, you should take the time to work out who will be able to help or hinder the success of your project before you decide to practice your character assassination techniques on them or their projects. Get some good contacts in other projects.
What you absolutely, without question, need to know is what is going on. Both within your own project and in other areas that affect your project. So practice that oft underrated management methodology of MBWA (Management By Walking About).
Talk to people, suss out who they are, how they affect your project, how they fit in to the general scheme of things and of course whether they fall into the good guy or arses category. Find out how their projects are doing and what problems they are encountering, and how they are resolving them. Look listen and learn – store all this up, one day it will come in handy.
“The difficult we do immediately. The impossible takes a little longer.”
Motto of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers – World War II
In IT, nothing is impossible, it just costs more. The bottom line is – will your customer or project sponsor pay for it?
Few customers are actually creative enough in their thinking to ask for the really impossible things. Usually a statement along the lines of ‘Do you have any idea how much that would cost?’ will scare them away from the really stupid things.
So, the only issues that are likely to approach the bounds of impossibility are lack of time to complete the work. Although, even this can often be solved with an injection of cash – you can get contractors, you can subcontract, you can work shifts, and you can even go offshore – if you’re feeling really adventurous!
That said, ‘Impossible!’ is a word you will typically hear from your team rather than your customer. Customers, by their very nature, expect the extremely difficult – but that’s because it’s not them that has to deliver it. But, that said, they do have to pay for it, so make best use of the tools of the trade. See ‘Change Control’.
To placate your team of incorrigible realists, point out to them the harsh realities of the situation. The customer is paying all of our collective wages, you’ve done your bit to temper the customer’s enthusiasm, and now they are asking for a lot less that they were expecting before. So surely they can deliver a subset of the real requirement. See ‘Ego’.
Be vary wary of ‘it’. ‘it’ can be your friend but ‘it’ can also be your enemy. If a salesman says to you “I’ve sold it”, it’s an enemy, but if a customer says ‘when can I have it’, ‘it’ just might be your friend.
‘it’ is the simple embodiment of the perception gap that usually exists in projects. You need to either close it or leave depending on whether or not it is working in your favour.