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Be The Right Kind Of ExpertIn a moment of decisiveness I cut up my credit cards, and I was transformed. I no longer needed to be an expert on credit card terms and conditions. Instead, I suddenly had to be an expert on when my bills were due, when my income came in, my daily costs and the price of things I needed (and what I didn’t need). By making that fateful decision, I put myself in a place where I finally developed the right expertise.

This is very much like the challenge with some project management tools. I’ve seen project managers who were experts in a tool or methodology (Microsoft Project or Monte Carlo for example) but not in resource management or schedule estimation. When things got tough, they dug into the wrong activity (e.g., how can we make Microsoft Project do “X”) rather than how do we fix the problem that we see.

The classic example I’ve seen in project management is where an organization’s projects are regularly unsuccessful (i.e., not on time, low quality, over costs) and these organizations start to implement organizational project management as a solution.

The focus becomes on setting up the project management office, training and hiring the project managers (PMs), and integrating them into the organization. The problem with this was that the root cause of poor project performance, in this case, was departments that were not working well together (e.g., personalities competing with each other for resources and authority, “warring tribes,” etc.).

So when the poor PMs started to do their work, that same lack of cooperation made it just as difficult for the PM as it had been for the joint teams that had been used in the past. The organization became expert on project management implementation (and brought in experienced PMs) but no amount of project management initiatives, such as “linking all the project plans together,” improved our project performance.

What did we hear?

“Project managers aren’t useful!”

What happened?

The project management office was disbanded, but all the PMs went to work for the individual departments. As long as they were under department control, we liked project managers!

Often, the key change we need to make to improve the project or organization means we need to cut out the old conditions or activities.  This forces us to become experts, rapidly, in the new activity.  As long as this new activity is what we need to be doing then, while drastic, the “cut” propels us to develop our expertise in a new and more appropriate discipline.

Also, see Stop Doing That! as a project management tool.

Does your team have the needed expertise in the right subjects?

Thank you for sharing!