A friend of mine asked a few project managers this interesting question:
“What problems and challenges do you look forward to most, while working in project management?”
I was asked the question, and have been thinking about this during my morning public transit ride.
My first answer would be this.
I love the design part of a problem. My favorite kind of projects is design and development. I like to work on projects that start with a problem, a challenge, and the solution is not known. The first step is to solve the puzzle and design a solution. This is magic: to move from “What do we do?”, then to “I have an idea”, and finally to successfully designing a solution is very rewarding. And my friends at work tease me on this. I always have ideas. I love this kind of challenge. It is like composing music.
I love the design parts so much that I have responsible for many special projects in the past 12 years, many were unusual are required an ability to move quickly from the black hole of “we don’t know what to do!” to “a good idea” to successful implementation.
I also have often worked in project rescue. This also requires creative thinking. If the standard thinking were sufficient, then the project would not be in trouble. And to try to rescue a project by just trying more and more to do the same as before will rarely work. Isn’t it the definition of insanity:
Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. / Albert Einstein
Many projects are variations on a theme. They are building, writing, researching or implementing something that was already done in the past. So the project benefits from the lessons learned, continuous process improvement of the previous experiences. These can be very complex, and value added. I do not question that. It takes good project management skills to deliver successfully those projects. However, my passion is more on the design side of the game.
It is like in music, I prefer to compose over playing music.
One final note on this: I was hesitating on either saying it was design or delivering results. Because of all the project management processes you can find in PMBOK, agile, Prince2, or any methodology, I think it is important to always remember that the most important one is to actually deliver the result (whatever that is). There is a danger in glorifying project management processes too much, and losing sight on delivering results. I have seen too many “well managed” projects that fall into that trap.
Updating a Gantt chart is not delivering results. It is done to support delivery of results, and should not be overdone.
When a project is in trouble, the project team has too often lost sight of the completion of tasks to deliver results, and are stuck in processes. This can ben too many meetings, status report, communication, briefing notes, etc.
So I could have equally said that my favorite part of project management is to actually deliver the intended result. We can do all the planning and Gantt charts, it is all a waste if a useful final result is not delivered.
Note that I keep the result section flexible. Definition of success should be flexible. The most important thing is to add value and deliver something useful.
I would conclude in saying that delivering result is also a key test in design. It is very easy to get lost in ideas, abstractions, concepts and complexity when designing a solution. It is very easy to generate a lot of ideas and never successfully implement any. The magic only happens if the idea is successfully implemented. And that is what I like.:
Creating and implementing successfully a new idea.
It is like composing music.
Knowledge Train: The challenges that you look forward to in project management