I’m really effective. Are you?

Over the years I have seen many project managers working really hard. They work long hours, work weekends and really ‘go the extra mile’ to deliver that project. But, I have sometimes questioned this approach and asked groups on training courses or individuals the same question; how effective are you?

I get a variety of responses from puzzlement to a clear statement that: “I’m really effective.”

I persevere and start to look at the difference between efficiency and effectiveness. Now there are many definitions of each of these terms and the ones I use say that:

  • efficiency = inputs
  • effectiveness = outcomes

I tell the story of a friend of mine. We used to go swimming at lunchtime and Jeff was not the strongest of swimmers. He swam front crawl and used to jump in the pool and power away. He powered away until the half way point of the pool and then he really struggled and eventually made it to the end of the first length. Interestingly his technique generated a huge amount of ‘froth’ in the pool!

He did this on the next length and the next. But he was slow, very slow and he was exhausted after about the 3 lengths.

Now in terms of inputs there was lots of effort. But, the outcome (effectiveness) was not too positive:

  • he was exhausted after only 3 lengths
  • he did not feel very happy with the results
  • he stopped going after a few visits

Exhausted after 3 lengths. Would better technique solve the problem here?

Now let’s come back to the question; how effective are you and let me add the words ‘at project management?’

I wrote above that I get a wide range of views however the one thing that everyone seems to agree on is that we could all get more for less i.e. less effort giving better results. But how can we achieve this? Let’s take a look at some possibilities:

  1. project management training: ensure everyone involved in the project is trained. This includes team members and project sponsors. Ensure that the training fits the group to be trained so for example someone who is delivering an activity as part of a work package may only need a briefing whereas someone delivering a large work package will need something more in depth.
  2. focus on the project management process: ensure there is a project management approach within the organisation. If you do not have one write one! I have worked with many organisations where the first thing we do is to develop a written approach to delivering effective projects. However, remember it is a guide and should be used such
  3. focus on delivering your project – prioritise; some of the group said they were trying to do everything. Now at this stage bit is important for me to say that the all of the group were a mix of project managers and still had some business as usual to deliver. A couple of people said they needed to delegate and some went further, saying there were elements of work that needed to be stopped altogether. This caused quite a few comments from others. I did ask how people prioritised their work and it was a bit of a mixed bag of answers with some very clear on what the priorities are and others not being clear
  4. people deliver projects: I have written about this many times and it is true! You can have the best systems and processes in the world but these are operated by people. The person who says they will deliver the data within the agreed quality guidelines and does not. Or the person who says they support the project but behind your back they try and sabotage it. So what can be done? Further develop your people skills. Yes, easier said than done however a key skill for everyone!

So, let’s come back to the original question; how effective are you at project management?

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