It sounds so simple. A small group of highly educated IT professionals sit together and plan a project as if they have a degree in fortune telling. With the available budget at hand, wishful thinking results in defining a specific deployment date. Then this fictitious date becomes holy and the basis for their bonus payout and looming promotion. So no matter what happens next, this ultimate deadline needs to be met. Even when they secretly silently agree that it is unrealistic.
Several months later…
Early signals were ignored that this project triggers significant change management within the company. The internal message delivered by project management remains unchanged, stating that the company needs to adopt the existing IT template, irrespective whether it is fit for purpose. The first signs of political intervention emerge.
Meanwhile, the gap analysis remains quite theoretical, in which decisions are made based on presentations instead of sharing how the actual system responds when you try to simulate business processes. The disconnect between business requirements and available functionality widens without it being recognised outside the inner circle of the project. Any change to the existing template could threaten the magic ultimate deadline. So in fear of postponing the deployment, the focus shifts in defining strategies how to persuade the business to agree to use a sub-par solution.
Many months later…
Pressure on meeting the due date turns into stress. Sooner than later the business will realise what they are going to get, triggering much resistance. At the same time, delayed deliverables make finger pointing the order of the day. Even bullying by project management is now used to keep the team in line to provide the official message and all will be fine. But the reality is catching up and just a matter of time when it escalates out of control.
Inevitable structural overtime to catch up beckons, which you need to accept to be seen as a team player. Else you are out.
Many are now depressed and productivity suffers. Discontent is discussed constantly and some even start to wonder whether the grass is greener on the other side. However, any project planned by Gantt Chart potentially trigger similar conflicts. Changing jobs like-for-like is only preserving the same vicious cycle. So many feel trapped and soldier on regardless.
Why is the Gantt chart still so popular?
Managers feel safe when there is a plan. The fear of the unknown is greater than the realisation that the plan is unrealistic. You can understand that dilemma, but there are alternative solutions such as various agile project management solutions.
The main disadvantage with “agile” is that there is no Gantt Chart anymore, making it difficult to define how long the project will take and consequently how much it costs. The traditional role of the manager also changes. Where it used to be a position of power, it now shifts into being a facilitator, removing obstacles along the way. Also, you need fewer managers to successfully deploy agile projects, as it is very hands-on and the business process owners and consultants are more in control.
Even when you embrace the agile philosophy, you still need to realise that humans make mistakes. Accepting failure during the project is important. You need to create an atmosphere where misjudgements are tolerated without blaming the people involved. This keeps high positive energy levels within the team, which also benefits the velocity in delivering solutions.
Famous last words…
There is no project management theory without any flaws. Still, the Gantt Chart has serious negative side effects that could lead to a disillusioned workforce and triggering fierce political battles.
Linking bonus payouts and promotions to a successful deployment makes more sense than being rewarded by forcing a predetermined deadline that cripples the company in running their business.
As predicting the weather becomes less reliable the further you look into the future, the same can be said about the Gantt chart when the project requires substantial change management within your company.
When you let go of the Gantt Chart, focus on getting the best resources available. Staffing your project with top quality is the best reassurance that you can deploy on time and within budget.
This article first appeared on Isard’s LinkedIn Pulse.
Author of the book “Make F.I.T. Your Purpose”.
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