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DD Mishra, Partner, CIO Specialist Advisory LLP, uncovers some of the secrets of successful project management, which are outside the purview of common practices. As per Mr Mishra, the approach towards Project Management should be more practical and holistic for its success. "Unlike innovators, mostly project managers are remembered for unsuccessful projects", opines Mr Mishra.

The success and failure of a project is not just project management but things outside its preview as well.  Here are some which I have tried to articulate:-

1. Diversity – Many a time you will be tempted or pressurized to put best people in your team for an important project. All best people (star performers) in the team will create conflict zones as they will have views and opinions of their own and in my experience, create recipe for failure. The diversified team of resources is the best productive team you usually encounter.

2. Stakeholders & Sponsor: – The stakeholder management is extremely important and if you have managed it well, you will have all the support and buy-in for your project and you may have created a half of your success story. If ignored, it may cause failure even though the project is managed properly. Similar is the sponsor who should be identified and made responsible for sponsoring early.  Understanding stakeholders outside the fence who are negatively or positively impacted can help you in success. For example, ignoring social activist in construction of large dams can delay the timelines. I suggest a separate stakeholder management plan for large and risky projects.

3. Change Management: - Successful project management is not just time, quality, scope, cost and resource management, but it is also managing the change it is trying to bring and handling the politics of change. Never underestimate the fallout and environmental impact of a change which you intend to bring. If your time tracking project leads to widespread strike in the company, it will lead to a failure and most likely the weakest link (which could be you as PM) will be punished.

4. Lunch: - Never ignore lunch with your team. This creates bonding and association. You will also change perception about you and others. People can connect well when you share lunch boxes with them. This is a networking opportunity with your team which should not be missed.

5. Innovation:- This is something which you will need to do throughout your project. Sometimes unknown ways of dealing with an issue will give a wonderful result. For example I faced a challenge with a customer who was reluctant to pay for his change requests as it would create audit issues but when I gave him the offer that I will do it free if he can finds out changes in policies and procedures outside his control, where I can accommodate the costs, he was very much willing. I have seen small innovations for win-win can cut short lengthy discussions and useless heartburn. For this you must walk in the shoes of your customer whom you are serving understand his/her win

6. Negotiations:  You may have to keep negotiating not just with your team and customers but with everyone in the ecosystem. Keep your levers of negotiation available with you. For this read the contract which you have signed not just once but several times. I had a customer with whom my organization signed a lifetime warranty for an application with which it was contracted to develop. Fortunately, I knew the remaining clauses to argue back that this will only be possible when the application is not changed by anyone else and to implement this, the customer must remained locked in to my organization. The rest was history.

7. Center of Gravity (COG): If you are not the center of gravity for your team, there is someone else who is! A constructive COG towards you will bring success but a negative or destructive one will bring lot of agony and pain. You must identify your team’s COG. If it is negative or destructive, work out an action plan to deal with it early. The easier way is to understand the aspirations of COG and make it a reality. For example, if you see your COG has an aspiration to replace you, give him the most challenging part of the project so that all energies are diverted towards making it happen.

8. Appreciate Threats: Most threats or risks are an opportunity. Do not look at them with negativity. A risk of losing control in your outsourcing project could be opportunity for developing an effective knowledge management system in your organization. I faced a situation when we were told by our esteemed customer that he is not ready for deployment of the application when we were almost ready. This would have meant huge overhead for us. We discussed how we can use existing resources in re-engineering some more legacy systems in T&M mode for the same customer till he/she gets ready. This would mean increased revenue and utilization which went very well. By the time we were ready, the infrastructure was ready for deployment.

9. Not everything is Black and White: Have you ever landed in situations where you were expected to do things which are outside the preview of contract or written rules? I am not advocating violating ethics, policies and procedures but the experience tells that contract should not be referred frequently but should be used as guidelines. Flexibility to accommodate and create a win-win situation pays a lot and sometimes beyond the expected benefits.

10. Useful Weakness: I read a story of a water man in India who was responsible for filling water to his master’s drum from the well every morning. His bucket which he used to carry water to the drum was having leaks. He used the weakness of his to provide an additional service of watering the garden by choosing the correct route to the drum where he can provide both service at the same time. This is like making best use of weakness. I encountered this in my first project when a team member who was not so technically sound used to articulate his issues very nicely over email. I had a requirement for a technical writer in team where he fitted in very well and latter made good progress in his career.

Unlike innovators, mostly project managers are remembered for unsuccessful projects.  For successful projects, in most cases the project is remembered along with its sponsors. 

The article was published first in InformationWeek India from the same author.

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