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First Time Project Manager

| Posted in Project Management, Why Projects Fail | | 1,498 views

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FTPM Are you furious about high rates of failing projects? does it bother you? project failure has been a hot topic for many years, companies and countries lose billions every year because of projects failure, look around you will find many stumbling projects, if you are unhappy about project failure, stop talking and start acting, we need to help out first time project managers and so this is a little initiative that hopefully can make a change!

If you want to get figures please have a look at project failure reports, the most famous report is Standish Group Chaos Report, another comprehensive report that is addressing project failure is The Project Management Benchmark Report 2010 released by Arras People

Starters need guidance and first time project managers are no exception, many PMP aspirants mistakenly think that as soon as they pass the PMP exam they will be ready to manage projects to success, however we all know that this is not the situation in the real world, it is sad that the main focus of PMP aspirants is to pass the exam and get the three magic letters (TML) next to their names! rather than trying to deeply grasp and implement what they learn.

Just like you, I am not happy about project failure, even though I lately have started to write about project failure, I always try to refrain from looking at the empty half only and try giving advises and recommendations next to each failure pattern based on my humble experience, I have strong belief that the project manager himself is one of the major reasons for project failure, either intentionally or unintentionally the project manger can lead the project to failure, and so I believe that experienced project managers should mentor and guide First Time Project Managers, there are great project managers on Twitter (#PMOT) who transmit valuable information every minute, and discuss hot project management topics, these project managers should also mentor and lead First Time Project Managers, I will start a new hashtag called #FTPM, and will try to give tips that FTPM can read, hope also PMOT will start submitting links about core project management practices and techniques, I strongly believe that a manager can be successful if he doesn’t forget the basics!

Why Do I start this FTPM Initiative?

Well, the project manager can make be number 1 reason for project failure, I will tell you why I believe so:

  • If the project manager fail to influence the project from the beginning and does not highlight the importance of the Critical Success Factors (CSF) of the project, the project will be very likely to fail, read Why Projects Fail – Initiation Phase
  • The Project Manager can be number 1 reason for project failure for many reasons such as lack of education or adopting an autocratic management style, I have addressed all these reasons in Why Projects Fail Because of Project Managers
  • If the Project Manager does not have enough experience to effectively deal with vendors/suppliers the project can fail because of contractual terms or buying an inadequate product, Read Why Projects Fail Because of Procurement
  • If the project manager is always submissive or a doormat the project will eventually suffer from scope creep and gold plating and will be very likely to fail, the project manager must stand his ground and say NO when he has to say it, Read The Doormat Project Manager Syndrome

You can just browse this blog for more

Project failure affects the reputation of the project management profession and we have to act on it, it is sad that everyone is speaking about project failure but no action is really getting taken, while project management education is important but people blindly seek PMP and it has proven that it is not the silver bullet

What do you think? What should we do to help out the First Time Project Managers? If you are FTPM how would you want to be helped? If you are on Twitter please start using #FTPM, I’d love to hear from you!

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Comments (20)

Kimo, Good Initiative, you are full of great ideas my friend, hope this new hashtag works well and I hope all experienced PMs works out with new comers, it will reduce the mess and encourage the community to build strong PMs around the world.

Thanks :)

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I am very interested in the subject of project failure. I have had the great pleasure to interact with others who share interest in this topic – @mkrigsman being at the forefront.

I did see the latest Standish report and I wrote a blog post on the topic because I think their results were misleading (understating the failure rates) http://bit.ly/cySPyQ.

I speak almost every week on the topics of IT Governance, Project and Portfolio Management (PPM) and PMOs. I begin the latter two presentations with two slides describing the problems plaguing organizations today. The last (but foremost) problem I describe is project failure rates.

I then go on to describe what I believe to be the two dimensions to solving these problems and reducing project failure rates: “Doing the right things” and “Doing things right” The former is a cute way to describe PPM and the latter is a cute way to describe execution (including PMOs and PMs).

I then acknowledge that almost every organization attempting to solve the problems attacks the latter – Doing things right. They insist they need better PMs or more PMI PMPs. They insist they need better project management methodology. They insist they need a PMO. “Oh, we have a PMO? Then we need to get rid of the PMO!”

I actually believe the execution side of the equation is keeping the project failure rate from being higher. I adamantly argue the problem seldom lays with PMs, rather it is the lack of sound project governance and PPM processes – dooming many projects before they even begin.

I applaud the great intentions of your post and your desire to help FTPMs be successful. I am sure your blog will help FTMPs and I wish you all the best in your efforts. I just want to temper my well wishes with the belief that you will be very limited in your ability to stem the tide of project failures. I believe the answer lies with better PPM.

Steve Romero, IT Governance Evangelist
http://community.ca.com/blogs/theitgovernanceevangelist/

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Steve,

I agree, doing the right things is much more important than doing things right, for example if a company embarks on a new project that has been studied and went through a proper feasibility study that ideally should address technology, finance, market viability, operational readiness, etc. and if the project fails in this case it must have failed due to either improper portfolio or a problem in the project, if project management is the main reason of failure, then the company can simply re-initiate the project or put it in hold, the good thing is that the project is not fully dead as long as it is the RIGHT thing to be done..

Like Covey is saying “Leadership is working on the system, Management is working within the system”, having said that the project manager can simply get the project and starts to manage it and deliver it but it may result in a valueless service/product and would be deemed as a failure.

I know that the problem many be with portfolio rather than project management, but as you know methodology matters!

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Hi Kareem, it is good to see your new blog is already inspriring some great conversation. This comment addresses your reply to me and a bit of your reply to Michel below.

First, you cite wonder in regard to the Standish report in your reply below to Michel. I was interviewed on just that subject after the report was released under the headline “First increase in project failures in a decade.” The reporter wanted to know how this could be? She pointed out (and I agreed) that as a discipline, Project Management is more mature than ever and there are more accredited PM professionals than ever. So how could failures increase? I gave my answer to that question in my initial comment to your blog post.

Now to your reply to my comments. YES, methodology matters. I am a HUGE believer in methodologyy and a bigger believer in process (good process – which is unlike most bad process out there today). So I agree with the spirit of you blog and your desire to help new project managers (who may indeed be contributing to project failures).

My latest blog post actually addresses what I believe to be common mistakes PMs make http://bit.ly/cSrqdd. (It is serendipidous – given I rarely speak on the day-to-day machinations of project management and the same week I delve into the subject, I happen upon your PM-focused blog.)

I am looking forward to participating in the great conversations I am certain you will inspire.

Steve Romero, IT Governance Evangelist
http://community.ca.com/blogs/theitgovernanceevangelist/

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Hello Kareem,

I wonder if focusing so much on project failures is the best approach.

Why wouldn’t you instead speak of how a FTPM can lead projects to successes? Same pitfalls to avoid and good practices to apply, just a different positive tone for the posts.

Michel.

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Hi Michel,

Once upon the time there was a great wise old man that all the people were asking him “how could you become such a wise man?” he used to answer “I had an unwise friend whom I was closely observing, and I used to do the opposite of what he was doing”

Moral of the story is that we need to know understand why projects fail to control and avoid these failure and reasons, like I wrote above, I am not trying to look at the empty half only, however I also give advises and tips in order to avoid the failure..

The problem is that people always avoid speaking about failures, I can think of interviews here, but first thing is to identify the root causes and seek a solution..

I am just wondering why the Standish group chaos report has been there for years and the situation is not too much different..

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Michel, @mkrigsman is constantly asked this question. He has a GREAT blog dedicated to the topic of Project Failure. He believes, and I agree, that we can learn as much if not more from the 50% of our projects that are failing, vs. the 50% of our projects that are succeeding.

I actually argue that the number of failures would be much higher if not for the heroics of great PMs and people working on these efforts. I for one, am tired of squeezing blood from a rock. This is why I am in line with Michael Krigsman in his question to understand the organizational, culturally and behavioral problems that exist in Enterprises today that contribute greatly to project failure rates.

Steve Romero, IT Governance Evangelist
http://community.ca.com/blogs/theitgovernanceevangelist/

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Hi Kareem,
I have recently started following your blog and I should say it has been a learning experience so far. I look forward not only to learn from your experiences but also share my thoughts.
Coming to #FTPM initiative, being a project lead who is transitioning to a full time project manager, I believe it is an excellent form to share & learn(the learning part for FTPMs). As you already have stressed the importance of action than a PMP degree, I would like to read the ‘how’ part of different activities with ‘examples’ which one can co-related. Having said that, all readers like me should make a sincere attempt to comment/share their thoughts and make this a multi-sided discussion and not just one sided.

Regards,
Raghavendra Kulkarni
http://twitter.com/rdkulkarni

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Raghavendra, PMOT is a great source of information, the point is that we all know the framework and each and every project manager has got his own copy of the PMBOK, however everyone has got his unique projects, and with every unique project there is a unique experience, whether you are FTPM or an experienced PM you will always find what will interest you.

The essence of having FTPM is to encourage new project managers to ask, learn, and interact with PMOT

Please let me know should you need any help,

Thanks

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Kareem, the pmStudent is on board with your #FTPM hashtag.

I’m all about helping new project managers. Let’s do it!

Josh
pmStudent.com

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Great job, Kareem. A while ago I was working on some ideas for communicating such important PM information (a lot of which you won’t find in the PMBOK or a text book) to those who need it, but let them sit. Now you’ve motivated me to go back and get busy.

There are a lot of people out there who need this help. It’s most important that people don’t feel embarrassed about asking for advice: only an idiot believes he knows everything.

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Kareem, I can see this is a very hot topic, and before you publish the FTPM initiative, I was thinking of starting my PMP trip, as it’s the time to expand the vision, so, I thought that many people needs to know the meaning of “Management” as a concept and how it’s combined with “Project’s scope” in order to understand “Project Management”.

This step, will help people not about Project Management is, but, the “Management” as a major role and how to think and act as a Manager.

Of course, I’ll not dive deep into the topic, just some knowledge from here and there related to the topic.

So, what do you think about that?

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[...] By Josh Nankivel, BSc PM, PMP Hello there! Some helpful free resources if you are interested: New to PM, PMP tips, and subscribe for updates!Powered by WP Greet Box WordPress PluginKareem Shaker just published a post called “First Time Project Manager.” [...]

I think #FTPM is a great idea. I’m in full support. You hit the nail right on the head when you said “either intentionally or unintentionally the project manger can lead the project to failure”. The buck stops here, I’m afraid, and it can be a horrible experience for a new project manager to find him or herself holding a mess, not understanding why or how it happened.

A resource of seasoned folks would be a fabulous place for new PMs to turn!

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Kareem, love your post but please, please, please don’t make any references to the Standish Group’s Chaos report. This report should not be used as a reference to project’s success or otherwise as the criteria it is using is statistically flawed (as analysed and documented in a number of blogs, including mine [see http://quantmleap.com/blog/?p=702 and http://quantmleap.com/blog/?p=607), lately].

Apart from that, great post.

Cheers,

Shim.

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@shim_marom whether the criteria is flawed or not we all know it’s an indicator to project failure, I am just wondering why PMI does not take this role and release an annual report about project success and failure, I wish to see this in the near future without touting the PMP as a success recipe!

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@kareemshaker sorry mate, but if the criteria is flawed that it can’t be used as an indicator to project failure. I agree that a better definition to what constitutes a success or failure is still required, but I can’t see how the Standish report can be used for that purpose. Check out Glen’s observations in http://herdingcats.typepad.com/my_weblog/2010/02/standish-report.html. His comments speak for themselves.

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#FTPM = great initiative. If those of us who’ve been there done that can’t help others just starting out then we’re not very gracious or serious about making a difference for the longer term. Access to information, tools and tips is great but mentoring or more targeted assistance really shifts things. Count me in!

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Hi all,
I aim to be a Digital Media Project Manager and I am searching advice on how to get there and become a good PM :-). I have been working in Online Marketing for 4 years and I would like to know which skills I have to acquire to achieve my goal. My first idea was to pass the Prince2/PMP certification.
Thanks for your help!

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@Stéphanie – best wishes on your journey! My site at http://pmStudent.com is dedicated to helping new project managers, check it out!
Josh Nankivel recently posted..Blame Failure On Your Project Stakeholders

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