Why IT projects and great project managers are like handbags - Stoneseed
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Why IT projects and great project managers are like handbags


The other day I was out shopping for a handbag, yes that’s right a handbag, on this occasion for my wife.

It was a sunny day, the football was on telly, the barbeque and beer in the fridge were calling me but I was shopping for handbags. I REALLY love my wife.

Now I must confess, I am not much of an aficionado when it comes to handbags, they all perform the same function as far as I can tell. That’s where the support of an experienced purveyor of handbags came to my rescue in the way of a shop assistant. Now normally during shopping trips I am asked by my wife or daughter for my opinion on all things fashion, I don’t know why as they know that frankly, I have no idea!

"It's nice," is usually my stock answer. As the shop assistant was sharing the benefits of Michael Kors over Burberry, my mind started to wander and I soon found myself mulling over an issue at work. When asked what I thought, I absent-mindedly muttered, "Agile".

"What?" asked the shop assistant, not unreasonably.

"Er, agile ... you know it looks like it's flexible."

She went on with the merits of other brands, I congratulated myself on my quick thinking and started pondering how great Project Managers and IT projects actually are like handbags. If only you get could one like the magic bag that Mary Poppins had - how good would a bottomless resource and endless capability be in Project Management terms? Maybe it is possible - but more on that at the end - but first why IT Projects and great Project Managers are like handbags

Firstly they ARE flexible.

What was a flash reaction to getting caught not paying attention, actually stands up under scrutiny.

Over the years, my wife's handbag has been an iPhone safeguarding, key holding, purse protecting, toy car carrying, baby's bottle nursing, mascara sheltering, handkerchief harbouring, multitasking legend.

The best Project Managers are as flexible changing their approach to project management and/or choice of methodology as business needs dictate. The best Project Managers go the extra mile to accommodate everything that comes their way as long as it doesn't compromise the project or bust the stitches.

I remember the look of horror on the face of one my wife's friends when she saw my wife pluck a baby's milk bottle from her handbag. The friend didn't have children and the thought of putting something this potentially messy in her bag was not one she could give countenance to. Some Project Managers can be like this, but most realise that flexibility can open doors to successful outcomes.

Great motivators!

My friend had tried to lose weight for many years, occasionally succeeding only to put it back on. It used to really get her down. Then, one Valentines Day her boyfriend said that he would buy her a Michael Kors handbag for each Christmas she maintained her ideal weight. She got her first bag that year and now six years on has half a dozen of them.

Great project managers have to be like that! Motivating teams to achieve beyond their perception of their own capability, often against all the odds.

The Can Only Really Measure Value When In Use

My friend and her boyfriend now have a Michael Kors dilemma. Every year she gets a new handbag, but she only has two shoulders and would look ridiculous with a bag over each one. This means that at any one time she has five handbags sitting on the shelf in her wardrobe doing nothing. That's over £1000 of handbags, he often points out to me.

Sometimes having in-house project capability can be like this - in quiet times, you can have some pretty high-cost headcount sitting idle. Outsourcing Project management function as a Service can help reduce these costs and give you an on tap resource when you need it.

Potential for Messiness.

... and when messy ... much less effective! Handbags, like IT Projects, can sometimes get a little out of control. Just this week I watched a frustrated lady rummage in her handbag for a ringing phone that she was never going to find before the call diverted to voicemail. I couldn't help noticing

When your IT Project runs over budget, falls behind time or misses a key metric it can help to take a helicopter view. Performing the equivalent of tipping the contents of your handbag on the coffee table enables you to assess the whole and zoom in on the burning issue - whether that's a lost lipstick or a lack of capability in a certain area.

The lady with phone smiled at me when she found her phone and with a raised eyebrow showed me the compartment in her handbag specifically designed for it, I couldn't help notice the other empty unused compartments and the clutter that filled her bag.

As Project Manager, you have to create the 'compartments' that bring order and have governance measures and discipline to see that they are adhered to.

At round about this point, my musings were disrupted as my wife announced that she'd chosen a handbag and my thoughts were replaced by barbeque and beer.

But what of that limitless Mary Poppins bag. Does a comparative solution exist within the Project management world?

I believe that it does.

Now that just about every part of the Project Management process, even the very process itself, can be bought in 'as a Service' – you effectively have a limitless resource at your fingertips. OK, it's not made out of carpet but to have assessments, governance, PM tools and people to improve your delivery capability and performance on demand as a flexible resource, well, that trumps carpet any day in my book.

Contact us to learn more about how Stoneseed's Enterprise PMO Assessment can improve you improve your project performance.

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