Have you ever been in a project management position when it comes time for the popular status report and you are 180 degrees apart from everyone else? As a project manager when this happens I am absolutely astounded that I am the only person in the group who sees the project in trouble. I got a clue when I tried to put a law firm under project management using Microsoft Project (don’t try this at home unless you are a professional). Within the first month I had every schedule in the red. I was ready to deliver the doom and gloom speech. The lawyers, on the other hand, were smiling and ready to claim victory. Every schedule on the sheet was missed but in their mind they were still on track. I determined that the interim dates that they put in the plan were not really critical to them. They did not recognize the true impact on missed dates to the end date. I had no knowledge of the actual complexities of the project. All I had were a set of dates that represented the project. I also determined that they were not in any way focused on the internal dates, just the end date. I had developed this non-existent sense of importance when it came to these interim dates. The lawyers thought, even if the dates were missed, they could still meet the end date.
There are valuable lessons to be learned in this situation. First, don’t assume that the first set of dates represents the full project or are representative of critical dates. Second, don’t expect that everyone understands project management and the importance of meeting internal dates. If you are in charge of a project or just want to track one, make sure that the plan is complete, the relative importance of the task are understood and that the impact on the end date of each line item is real. More importantly make sure that the team or group understands what project management means and agree that the interim dates are a need that forces the group to meet the critical end date.