Many years ago, when project management in the information technology world was still young, I asked my project mentor what it meant to be a good project manager.
She replied to me that I needed to understand the process, that I needed to follow up on tasks constantly, and that I needed to communicate the status to everyone consistently. She didn’t use terms like project schedule, risk mitigation, resource leveling or earned value management. We focused on getting work done, engaging the best people and honoring our commitments.
As I grew in project management I found that the tools and techniques being offered could help me in each of these areas. They provided context and meaning and enhanced my communications. These tools were not the goal of the project but they were a means to help achieve each project’s goals. The tools were valuable and important but they couldn’t replace the fundamentals my mentor gave me. Usage of these tools kept me busy but they didn’t do much to advance projects from one milestone to the next.
Next on my project management journey I went to work for an organization that was in the process of developing a lot of tools, techniques and processes, but they operated with scarcely any project fundamentals – unless you call “get it all done now” a fundamental.
The lesson I learned is that quality fundamentals can provide you with more success as a project manager than the latest tools. Tools are useful, but if fundamentals are not in place then these tools can quickly become useless.
Do you ever feel trapped by your tools? Do you sometimes have so many tools and processes in place that you have no time left to do the work needed on a project? I think that administrative tasks are necessary up to a point, but then they can become a hindrance to a project’s success. How do you balance the time you spend completing a project with the time you spend performing a project’s administrative tasks?