Flexibility to a Changing Project Environment

760px-2006-02-04_Metal_spiralI would like to think that I'm a flexible person. Well, I am now...at least more so in the last 2-3 years. I have to admit that until having some sort of healthy revelation a couple years back I would never eat seafood, green beans (or any kind of bean for that matter), guacamole, raisins, and rarely BBQ ribs. This is just a sampling of what I was picky about...but now I eat all of these without thinking twice.  It's hard to explain. Let's just say I'm far easier to live with now and a much better eating example for my small children now.

So back to flexibility.  Ok, I wasn't before...in general...and now I finally am.  Are project managers flexible in general?  I'd like to think so.  We manage diverse projects against often ever-changing scopes of work.  We manage diverse teams who may be located around the world.  And we manage diverse customers who want what they want and not necessarily the pre-packaged methodology and processes that we - or our organizations - have set forth as "the way we do things around here."  Meaning if that really isn't how your customer wants you to do things then maybe - just maybe - you should think about tweaking the process to be more in line with what they want and need from you.  And that is what I want to address here – both for PMs and for their organizations.

One size does not fit all

I know many organizations have touted they have an incredible project management methodology in place ready to help make them successful on every project they manage for their clients.  In fact, many companies like to roll this out as a “feature” to perspective clients.  Many state their project management methodology is based on the Project Management Institute’s (PMI) overall concepts and methodology.  Yes, that is like a food product manufacturer saying their new product is FDA-approved.  It may mean they have a generally accepted stamp of approval that is instantly recognizable in the industry, but it doesn’t mean their food actually tastes good.  I’m not sure Funyons should be FDA approved, but they taste good and a lot of customers would agree – even though everyone secretly questions what they are actually made of (same with hotdogs).

What I am getting at is this:  one size does not fit all.  There are times when we can shove our ways and practices – and yes that means our corporate PMI-based PM methodology – on our unsuspecting project customer.  It just won’t fit.  And we must adapt to what is needed for the project and what is best for the client (or sometimes just what they think is best).  We don’t do that as parents for our very small children… that would be foolish and they don’t run the show.  But often our very important and highly visible bill-paying project customer does have a say and may run the show.  Pay attention and learn to adapt to the changing project environment that is being forced on you.

Summary

Rigid PM structure may work much or even most of the time.  But, as project managers, if we aren’t able to roll with the changes and adapt to the needs of our clients, then it will be difficult to keep them as satisfied project customers no matter how hard we try and no matter how successful our rollout will be.  What they remember is this, “We don’t listen to our customers.”  Or worse, “Our customers wishes do not matter very much to us.”  Don’t let that happen.

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