Sunday, November 9, 2008

Amateurs Talk Strategy; Professionals Talk Logistics

During the build up to the Afghan war, one of the TV reporters made the statement "Amateurs talk Strategy; Professionals talk logistics". The saying actually means that though plan/Strategy is important, in a war having the right people at the right place with the right equipment/food is even more important. I hope all of us remember the poem, "for the want of a nail, a shoe was lost".

This is not to say that strategy is a bad thing and planning is a strict no-no. That is not the case. Planning is important and its importance is not understated here. But what has to be understood is that seemingly inconsequential areas (like logistics) have a major bearing on the outcome when you fight a battle.

You may be wondering what relevance the above quote has got to do with project management, but before we go into it, let me share an event that happened recently.

A person called me up and wanted a few minutes of my time to talk about his project. He actually shared a sob story about his project-gone-very-wrong with me. He had a long laundry list of what was wrong with the project. I asked him about his issue tracking system and version control process. To my shock and surprise, i was told that bugs and CRs are managed through mails and there was no version control procedure in place. Things were actually so bad that a functionality that the team mentioned as delivered to the client wasn't actually delivered. The project has a plan, MPP, WBS and a few more typical artifacts, but it was failing miserably.

The story above is a classic example of another project gone wrong though all typical artifacts were in place. This happens because certain aspects of Project Management are given more importance than what they deserve. And certain aspects don't get the kind of importance they deserve, because they are thought of as inconsequential. Ultimately projects fail because of what we don't do right more than what we do right.

Given below is an indicative list of activities/artifacts that are less important than they look and another list of things that are more important than they are actually treated.

Less Important (Amateur Territory)
  • Project Plan
  • MPP
  • WBS
  • Gantt Chart
  • Weekly Status Reporting
  • Quality Goals
More Important (Professional Territory)
  • Setting and Managing Client, Senior Management and Team Expectation
  • Scope Management
  • Risk Management
  • Issue Tracking System
  • Version Control
  • Team Motivation
This list is neither exhaustive nor complete. The hall mark of an experienced project manager is the importance he/she gives to the 'Professional Territory' without undermining the 'Amateur Territory' in a manner that ultimately results in the project success.

1 comment:

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