Project managers deal with an enormous amount of information and are expected to process and manage events and people based on the totality of all they are aware of. This may seem like an enormous feat, but by nature our brains try to group and filter information in a manner that creates meaning. We unconsciously recognize patterns and create associations to better compartmentalize and process the influx of data. By organizing and grouping information we are able to eliminate complexity and unfamiliarity, observing reality in a more simplistic manner. Assessing behavior and recognizing inherent patterns is critical to our ability to accurately predict, plan, execute and monitor projects.
Without being aware, you have already begun to compartmentalize the risks, by creating a risk register and defining the pattern of activity or behavior that will be observed as the risk is being realized. Your communication plans have documented the pattern of communication that will be expected during the project, what information comes into the PMO and what information goes out – and to whom.
Your project budgets have been created with known and predicted costs that will be incurred, and you will be expected to monitor and report when spending falls outside the predicted pattern. Resources are categorized into different groups – aligned by business function or technical background and skillset; senior versus junior. They will float between these categories as seamless as a leaf pulled by a river current, and this is expected. Your mind has created a sense of order and defined an algorithm for everything related to your project.
All is well until the predicted pattern of events is broken. It is at this moment, when assessing the totality of it all takes over. You begin to scrutinize events and look for anomalies, you assess the whole – rationalizing things differently than the sum of the parts.
Seasoned project managers will pull from prior experience to determine cause and effect, to assess the impact of the broken pattern, to determine if the anomaly is for good or bad – and if bad, what to do about it. The assessment and reaction must be broader to ensure that in remediating the broken pattern, that other patterns and predicted events are not negatively impacted. Remediation requires reflection of totality; because ultimately, the totality of it all matters.
Janet is Avout’s Delivery Services Partner who focuses on ensuring the overall effectiveness and quality of each engagement. She has over 20 years of project management experience in the IT industry, specializing in Oracle implementations.
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