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The Case of the Clueless Management


Craig Sunter - Madness Is All In The Mind

At one organization where I worked, the CIO had seen something on the value of earned value. They brought me in to teach a two-day Microsoft Project class to their engineers without mentioning that this was now part of their goals. Every engineer on that team within a few months of the class was supposed to produce EV on projects that were two years late at a schedule performance index level of .95. The engineers had never heard of Project, had no project management background, and knew nothing about work breakdown structure or even EV prior to the class. EV was never mentioned in the class. Definitely one of those cases where management expected people to do far more than they were trained for.

In another company, Microsoft has given the client all sorts of free coding to create dashboards. But they have no valid data to feed the dashboards, so they’ll sit there for now. Compounding the problem, the company doesn’t see the need for training but still expects to see results soon.

A few weeks ago I was on the phone with a prospect who wanted Microsoft Project installed. And then he expected the software to create the projects and update them automatically without the project managers having to spend more than five minutes a week on the effort. Nor did he want training, process or governance. The software should just know what needed to be done. My response: “If you purchase a fancy stove, will it cook dinner for you?”

Photo courtesy of Craig Sunter

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Written by Ellen Lehnert

Ellen Lehnert, PMP, Microsoft Project MVP, MCP, is a independent consultant and trainer on Microsoft Project and Project Server. She has taught Microsoft Project over 400 times and is the author of  MS Project 2010 and

2013 published courseware. Ellen is also a contributor and tech editor for many reference books, a developer for the Microsoft Project certification tests and is a frequent meeting speaker for Microsoft, MPUG and PMI. Contact Ellen at ellen@lehnertcs.com.

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  1. I am always amazed at client expectations. After I told him about the stove – he still didn’t get it – not sure he ever will. It is important to level set the expectations at the beginning of an engagement. In the case of the last client — there was no engagement.

  2. Recently during the dicussion with one of the senior personnel in setting up a PMO office, the question asked was “How much time my project managers need to spend on these tools and Processes?” as if this is a separate entitiy.

  3. When I began scheduling I learned on SureTrak and P3. We switched to Project about a year ago so it would better interface with the Procore website. There are some things I prefer about P3 and few things I prefer about Project.

    Project works, I know it does, but it can work so much better.

    MS Project is faster for building a brand new schedule and easier to make changes in, but P3 is faster and easier to update and maintain once created. However, neither product can be maintained with 5 minutes of work a week, that is definitely an unrealistic expectation – if your PMs and APMs don’t have the time then create the position and hire a Scheduler who can devote the necessary time to accuracy and detail.

  4. I had another client recently who told me that they promised the CIO that they would have MS Project Server functioning producing exact resource allocations within a month. None of the PM’s can spell Project and they had no idea what it would take to get to their goal. I told them I didn’t think they could make it. Then they moved the date to January and insisted I make that deadline because they promised the CIO they could make it. I told them I would love to do brain surgery by January but I didn’t know first aide. They said message received. The clueless ones don’t know they are clueless.

    People who want to use MSPS see a demo and think it is plug and play. I wish that the people doing the demos would be more realistic about what it takes to get to the flashing demo set up reports. MSPS needs to be planned. Set your goals and be realistic about what your users can produce and their current knowledge level of MS Project. Just because they have been using MSP and are self trained doesn’t mean they know what they are doing to really make it work. People think it is Excel with a Gantt chart and it is so much more than that. The software needs process, training and governess to make it work to achieve predefined goals.


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