A project manager often has to make a commitment when it is really too early to do so.
It can help to extend the definition phase, but it is likely there will still be some uncertainties left – if the client is even willing to give you this extra time to begin with. There could be a practical reason for this: the project’s end date is set, so extending the definition phase will automatically leave less time for the execution phase. If that is the case, waiting to make a commitment can seriously test the client’s patience. There may also be a political reason, for example the clients know that what they want is impossible, yet they are unwilling to admit it. That presents you with an even greater dilemma - do you play along or not?
Perhaps the importance of when you make your commitment is relative anyway; you may be able to time your commitment, but not the expectations you raise. I often talk to project managers who are upset about the fact that their client starts drawing conclusions about lead times and budgets during the definition phase, before any formal communication has taken place. That makes sense and they are technically right to feel this way. However, even though an official commitment has not been made yet, expectations are raised – consciously or subconsciously – from the very start. Although these expectations are informal, clients are not likely to care about or even realize this. If their expectations are not met, they are disappointed. Disappointed clients are less flexible and cooperative, which results in a downward spiral before the project is even underway. Surely, that is not what you want as a project manager? .
A project manager, therefore, has to start managing expectations from the get-go. By definition, there will still be many uncertainties at that stage. For that reason it is crucial that project managers are able to clarify the project scope and the expected delivery moments despite all the uncertainties that still exist, regardless of whether they are formally making a commitment or informally raising expectations.
After this anecdote, you may recognize other forms of the &-&-&-paradox in project management. I describe three of them in this chapter. Note that for now I will only focus on the challenges that they present; the solutions are covered later on in this book.
- 1. More with less: the project must be completed as soon as possible and it must be possible to make changes along the way andthe costs have to be reduced and the functionality has to improve and...
- 2. Monitoring things closely and giving your team plenty of space.
- 3. Recognizing uncertainty and making a commitment with regards to the project’s completion date and costs.
I will cover the rest challenge, more with less, in this section. The other two are covered in sections 1.2 and 1.3. By looking at more than just the project manager, it is possible to gain an insight into the environment in which the modern project manager operates. This illustrates the ways in which a project manager has to develop in order to stay successful.
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