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  • Writer's pictureBill Holmes

Everyone Loves A Hero!

“And a special thanks for not burning up the whole ship. Including yourself, you daft bum-rag.” Scott Westerfeld, Leviathan

“The grass is always greener around the fire hydrant.” Jeff Rich

Everyone loves firemen, but we don’t reward the people responsible for the fire! Except in Project Management…

Think of your organization. Who do you recognize and reward? Is it the quietly competent Project Manager (PM) who holds efficient and effective meetings, manages risk and delivers the project within scope, on time and within budget?

Or was their project perceived as “easy” because it was delivered without drama?

And what about the “difficult” projects? You know the ones! They face one extreme and unexpected obstacle after the other. Technically challenging! Resource constrained! And yet somehow the PM heroically rises to the challenge and drags the project across the finish line using sheer will and effort. Look at what they accomplished!

But it’s the PM’s job to remove drama through planning. That is the one of the primary purposes of Project Management. There shouldn’t be “unexpected obstacles” because the Risk Management process requires ongoing identification of previously unknown risks, and those risks should quickly be assessed and response strategies developed. Technical challenges should be calmly and logically addressed through the defined processes in the Project Plan, and resource constraints are addressed though known scheduling techniques or through an agreed upon change to the project baseline.

So why all the drama? While there are exceptions to the rule (unknown/unknows in risk parlance), generally is it because known Project Management principles haven’t been followed. A heroic Project Manager is generally a sign of a problem within your organization.

Often these “high risk/high drama” projects are held up as success stories for all the wrong reasons.

And who or what defines project success?

Is it the final dashboard that shows all “green” for scope, cost and schedule? No, because that does not describe if business value was delivered! You can re-baseline the project by deferring business requirements and have an “all green” project that did not meet it’s intended purpose.

Is it the Executive Steering Committee (ESC)? If so, what is their expertise to judge the success of the project? Most ESC’s are comprised of high level representatives from key organizations, not by project experts. The ESC’s entire perspective about the project will be shaped by what they are presented. Are they getting the shown the rough edges and ugly facts, or is it smoothed a bit to make it more palatable?

How does your organization define project success?

The PMBOK® tells us that we define success at the outset through organizational project management. I describe that in detail here: www.projectmanagementforum.net The organization determines the strategic need that the project tactically fulfills. It is the PM’s job to stay focused on that while managing scope, cost, schedule, quality, et al. This should be done with drama free competence.

We all love heroes, but you don’t need one on your project. You need a good and empowered Project Manager.


I am navigating the patent process, and it is fascinating. First you file for a “provisional” patent that protects your idea for a year. This requires technical sketches, descriptions, a search of existing patents, and the filing itself. The one year provisional patent allows you to determine the economic viability of the product and “shop” it with potential manufacturers. If you decide to proceed, then you begin the process of obtaining a non-provisional patent. That is where I am. What shocked me about the process is how expensive it is! It makes me wonder how many fantastic ideas aren’t being developed because of the costs involved in the process itself. I am pressing forward, so it will be interesting to see how this turns out.


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