Posted by: kerrywills | December 4, 2009

Using my GPS (Guidelines for Project Success)


A few weeks back I was driving to a family gathering in New York and I started off by plugging the address into my GPS to take me there. After a few minutes it had calculated my route and was telling me which way to go and how long until I got there. As I was driving there trying to ignore the kids fighting in the back, I reflected on using a GPS and realized it was very similar to using a project methodology.

Like a GPS, a project methodology is supposed to be used to consistently guide projects along the same steps which allows for predictably reaching your destination. Projects that follow methodology steps and diligence should be able to consistently meet their goals.

"First go down Requirements Road, then make a left at the Design gate, follow that until Build...."

What usually happens, though, is that projects don’t meet their goals and then blame the methodology. For example, I have seen many projects use a standard estimation model and then not follow rigorous change control on the project only to have their final cost come in above the original estimate and then say that the model was faulty. This would be like me deciding to take some “back roads” even though the GPS was telling me to stay on the highway, and when I get lost blame the GPS unit. Project Managers need to remember that their Guidelines for Project Success (GPS) or methodology just tells them the steps to take but that they still need to follow the directions. They are the ones in the driver’s seat who need to make the decisions.

Also like GPS directions there are many different routes that a project can take to still reach the destination. This is why there is flexibility in most methodology approaches to tailor out deliverables or use different ones as appropriate.

So let’s use our project GPS for what it was intended; to give us guidelines and directions and then realize that we are the ones that need to decide how to best use this information in our navigating to project destinations.

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Responses

  1. Kerry,

    Good analogy, this will help highlight the key difference between process and people (using the process).

    Vikas

  2. Kerry,
    The most expensive GPS will not stop a car accident. Some may notify you of a traffic jam and recommend an alternate route to the same destination. How do you relate this to the PM disciple-ship?

  3. JT,

    That is why, like with Project Managers, it is the experience of the driver to know what to do in different situations, which will help to reduce the probability of an accident. That is the main point here, that the driver has as much to do with getting to the destination as the GPS unit (or methodology).

    – Kerry


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