When the symptoms of low organization project management maturity are discussed, cost and schedule overruns, limited business value realization, and stakeholder/customer dissatisfaction usually rank high. One of the less frequently considered impacts of this situation is the overwork and stress incurred by project managers who are forced to “fill the white space” to keep their projects on track.
By contrast, in mature organizations, sponsors and team members demonstrate their committment to the project’s success by fulfilling their responsibilities, and project managers can perform their roles without alternating between babysitting and nagging.
In lower maturity organizations, the types of challenges encountered by project managers on a daily basis include:
- Situational amnesia: Functional managers, team members and sponsors will conveniently forget decisions or commitments they had previously made – sometime on the same day!
- Pre-schoolers playing soccer: Without frequent follow-ups, team members get distracted or lose focus on their activities by chasing the next ball that comes their way
- Cassandra syndrome: Issues and risks are identified, communicated and escalated with no follow-through from their owners
Such issues force project managers to jettison work-life balance, marginalize professional development and defer vacations as their sense of professional responsibility overrules their sense of self-preservation. Actions taken by the project managers to keep their projects on track in turn will stress and frustrate team members and functional managers.
What’s worse is that when projects succeed under such conditions, it can be very difficult to cultivate a sufficient sense of urgency to improve.
One driver for maturity improvement might be the need to increase project throughput. Whereas in lower maturity organizations, a competent project manager might only manage one moderate sized project because of the challenges listed above, as maturity increases, capacity to take on more concurrent projects should develop.
Project management has become a pricey skill set, and selling the case for change based on getting more project management bang for the buck might also appeal to your senior management. If not, their wake-up call might end up being the steady exodus of project management skills.