It’s like driving a rally car when a project manager is delivering their projects at a rapid pace. They must navigate a course that changes with the environment. Sometimes the road is unclear and they need to navigate through open country or deserts.
The response of the project management community is to make sure that the car is fully loaded with instructions manuals and that signage is placed along the roadside.
Drivers don’t always have time to read all the signs. They become distractions in the peripheral vision, keeping the driver focused on the road.
Rally drivers would struggle to make progress if they were asked to explain their performance on each section. Instead, real-time feedback gives the necessary insights. Performance is not measured against one race. It is assessed against a series that continuously refines performance.
Understanding how others have driven along the route, stats and sector times, where they were able to make up time and feedback on the real-time performance of the car, accidents that have occurred, and the consequences of those accidents would be more beneficial to the driver.
The rest is up to the navigator and driver. The project manager in the P3M industry is constantly bombarded by signage, rules and regulations. Many people want to see where others have failed.
They are qualified rally drivers and have the appropriate qualifications to drive the car. However, they may not be familiar with the particular conditions and circumstances of the track. Weather conditions can change quickly and the track is always changing.
One could argue that, although the lessons learned process may result in changes to the car routing or the vehicle itself, the primary focus should be on the contextual insights specific to the section of road being traveled.
The race team will also need analytics to determine where the driver and car performed poorly so that future adjustments can be made.
This is a problem for the Portfolio Management Office. The dataset does not have the former.
Young rally drivers must be encouraged and given the opportunity to improve their skills in a safe environment. However, seasoned practitioners are at the forefront of the sport. They are highly qualified and have a good understanding of the theory.
Their challenge is to apply the theory in a dynamic environment with changing constraints. It is a matter of prioritising management and delivery effort over teaching them how to drive.
How can an organisation know which elements of a project to prioritize if it has never done so before? The answer lies in the body of experience, which is tailored to the specific challenges of each project. However, history has shown that systems or methods alone will not solve the problem.
While experience can be a great asset to the project team, it is not possible for the project manager to work alone. They are surrounded with governance, assurance, and processes that can help or hinder progress.
It is crucial that organisations understand how past experience affects the future and whether intervention is needed at portfolio, programme, or project level. A culture of extracting small margins is a good idea, even though many organisations are not able to quantify the impact of margins on the business.
While I admit that the analogy may not be perfect, I hope it helps P3M professionals reflect on the balance between an ever-expanding list of processes and governance vs hiring the right people to enable them to perform to their best with the cards they have.