Reading Time: 4 minutes

Project Manager vs Gantt Chart Jockey (Part 1)

Yogi SchulzMuch has been written about the essential contribution reasonable project management makes to IT project success. Sadly, the reverse is also true. Absent, incompetent, or insufficient project management invariably contributes to project failure.

How can an executive who needs their IT project to succeed and is likely the project sponsor recognize if a superior, competent project manager is leading their active project? Can you tell if it’s being managed by an insufficiently disciplined person who exhibits Gantt chart jockey behaviours? The difference will determine project success or fiasco.

You can gain confidence if your project manager applies the 10 project management knowledge areas common to all projects. The Project Management Institute (PMI) defines these knowledge areas in its Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK). Here’s how to differentiate good from bad project management and determine if intervention is required.

More advice on running your business
Business management

Read our series on
Closing the Deal

Startup 101

Learning from the pros

Project Integration Management

A project led by a Gantt chart jockey is based on a brief, high-level project statement. Allusions to multiple feel-good themes may elaborate that statement. A short project plan illustrates only the approximate elapsed times for planned project phases without supporting detail. The project plan is rarely updated after initial development. Project status becomes a guess.

An experienced project manager leads the development of a:

  1. Project charter that describes the project in some detail and includes a clear goal statement.
  2. Project plan that focuses on the tasks and effort required to produce expected deliverables and is updated regularly.

Project Scope Management

A Gantt chart jockey views scope-enlarging opportunities as a way to:

  1. Increase project importance by claiming to deliver more value.
  2. Ask for more budget.

As the scope expands, increasing project size is more likely to lead to project failure than success because the project will collapse under its own weight.

An experienced project manager is acutely aware that even the most brilliantly-written project charter is full of scope ambiguity. A well-run project, as it progresses, will increase its understanding of scope as a product of system requirements elucidation and detailed design. This work will reveal many additional scope opportunities. Appropriate project scope management is indicated by a well-defined scope management process that seeks to contain scope.

Project Time Management

Gantt chart jockeys see time tracking by task as too tedious and time-consuming. On these projects, work on deliverables is assumed to have started on the planned start date. Often deliverables are shown as complete when the person assigned to the deliverable says so. As a result, the project falls further and further behind the published schedule due to the required rework of deliverables discovered to be incomplete.

A competent project manager leads the work to:

  1. Create a reasonably accurate project schedule by seeking high-confidence effort estimates for the tasks required to produce the deliverables.
  2. Ensure a defensible project schedule by defining precedence relationships among the deliverables.
  3. Support reliable progress reporting based on time tracking, meaning effort tracking of the tasks in the project plan.

Project Cost Management

Gantt chart jockeys tend to create a project budget with few line items and estimated costs based mainly on the planned number of elapsed months shown in the original project schedule. The project cost is updated monthly with the actual costs incurred. Revisions to the estimated cost-to-complete are based solely on the remaining budget. This horrible practice produces a calculated variance amount that is excitingly low and ultimately wildly misleading.

Good project management of costs is indicated by:

  1. A project budget consisting of many line items or even pages of line items based on effort estimates.
  2. Project cost is updated monthly with the actual cost.
  3. Revisions to estimated cost-to-complete are based on the percent complete for every active task.
  4. A monthly recalculated projected cost variance amount that is realistic.

Project Quality Management

Gantt chart jockey projects leave the definition of quality up to the team member responsible for each deliverable. After all, the assigned person is the most qualified to produce the deliverable. Because subsequent deliverables are typically dependent on the quality of predecessor deliverables, quality deteriorates throughout the project until the project becomes bogged down in massive rework.

Reasonable project management is indicated by quality management that consists of the following:

  1. A defined quality management process. On IT projects, the process includes a detailed approach to software testing.
  2. Review of deliverables by peers and business staff.
  3. Revisions to the deliverables based on review comments.
  4. A project culture that positions the review process as helpful guidance and not as character assassination of the person responsible for the deliverable.

Taking Action

Based on your observations about these project management knowledge areas, you can be assured that your project is in good hands, that some project management coaching is indicated or that it’s time to replace that Gantt chart jockey project manager.

Part two of this series for the remaining project management knowledge areas will be published next week.

Yogi Schulz has over 40 years of information technology experience in various industries. Yogi works extensively in the petroleum industry. He manages projects that arise from changes in business requirements, the need to leverage technology opportunities, and mergers. His specialties include IT strategy, web strategy and project management.

For interview requests, click here.

The opinions expressed by our columnists and contributors are theirs alone and do not inherently or expressly reflect the views of our publication.

© Troy Media
Troy Media is an editorial content provider to media outlets and its own hosted community news outlets across Canada.