Project Manager as Facilitator
As introduced earlier, traditional project management was driven by technically oriented project managers. Further, these project managers worked in the traditional hierarchical culture of the broader organization. As a result, key project management activities such as risk management, estimation, costing, and strategy selection were undertaken intuitively (black box project management) and unilaterally by the project manager with little involvement from his or her project team members and with no involvement from the business areas. In many cases, the project manager would meet with senior managers and then tell the team how long the project would take and who was to undertake what tasks.
To successfully plan a business project in the contemporary organizational context, you must shift from planning to facilitating the planning process.
Using the rapid planning (RAP) process described later in this chapter, you must identify the key stakeholders and related projects and, with the team members, undertake the planning process in an open and collaborative manner using white box project management (see Figure 3.4).
Figure 3.4 Black box versus white box project management
Apart from the advantages identified earlier, the team-driven project management concept ensures that all stakeholders who are service providers to the project manager and all project managers of key related projects are prepared to support your project's timetables prior to its commencement.
In his great book, Mission Critical Leadership (2001), Paddy Miller developed the concept of relationship capital together with the more conventional concepts of intellectual and financial capital. He argued that the relationships built between an organization, its people, its clients, and its suppliers are critical in the new economy. We agree and our model of project management is all about you, the project manager, building relationship capital with your stakeholders, sponsor, and team members. The more relationship capital you have built, the easier your job will be.
In addition, the internal and external complexity of projects can overwhelm a single person and a collaborative team has a greater capability to ensure that all planning considerations are complete and accurate. For example, in a medium-sized project, more than 100 risk factors will need to be assessed, more than 1,000 tasks will need to be identified and estimated, and more than 100 external relationships will need to be managed. It is clear that a team-driven project planning process involving experts from different backgrounds will have a higher capability of handling this level of complexity.
Apart from increasing the buy-in and ensuring that your key service providers can commit to and be responsible for the proposed project's outputs and outcomes and their service requirements, the values and ideals of participative processes of team-driven and proactive project management are in line with the emerging organization paradigms of empowerment, ownership, and partnership now being implemented in business groups across many organizations.
It should be emphasized that although the preferred team-driven planning approach is based on consensus, you are still the responsible person. It will be common that the team involved in planning will not reach consensus and, in these cases, it remains your responsibility to resolve the issue in conjunction with the project owner or sponsor. How you can manage the balancing of responsibility and participation is covered in more detail later in this book.
The concept of a large group of people meeting together to plan a project may seem costly and risky, but experience has shown that the team-driven process is quicker, less costly, and more accurate than the traditional "expert" project manager approach.