Year-End Griping: Part 1

As we approach the year-end, I might as well get some of my gripes out of my system. Why-oh-why haven’t some of the advances we’ve longed-for happened? How come we are stuck in the same places we’ve been stuck in for years?

Todays’s Topic: When Do We Get Better Projects?
We do actually have better projects than we used to have. Too many LIMS and ELN vendors used to say we didn’t need project management because our products are “different.” Well, of course, those of us who have been long-term proponents of project management aren’t all that pleased to be able to say “I told you so” to all those who used to insist that we were just a bunch of fuddy-duddies who ruined everything with our project management ramblings. Instead, those of us who used to try to encourage project management are a bit forgotten because it is actually quite common, these days. No proponents are necessary.

Unfortunately, we do still have plenty of terrible projects around. First of all, I want to say that no project is perfect. Every project has its flaws and, upon a project post-mortem, there is always something to add to the “lessons learned” category. Some projects just don’t seem to take the “lessons learned” category seriously, though, and just can’t seem to apply the skills that we’re all supposed to know.

Many of us have been in the situation where we can clearly see what the problem with the project is but have no method with which to fix it. There are those situations where we can look for constructive ways to illuminate and hopefully fix the problem, but the project has to be receptive to that and able to absorb it. That just isn’t always the case.

Hurray For the Great Projects!
I was just speaking on the phone with a consultant friend of mine who was telling me about the truly amazing things his new employer does. They are so fanstastic that I doubt he’ll ever leave. They’re the most amazing place, quite honestly. But his stories made me remember some of the truly great projects I have also worked on. I started to talk about a customer I’d had when I first started my business who could do absolutely anything they decided to do. This was quite a few years ago, now, considering that I’ve been in business over 18 years but, as long as I’ve worked with them or known people who have worked with them, they’ve done amazing things. They always knew how to make a plan, break the parts down to assign the work, and to make sure it got done. They’re not the only ones, of course, as I’ve worked with other customers who have accomplished big and amazing things with their projects.

Despite all the knowledge of project management and of the systems we work with, why is it that there are so many projects that are going to spend millions of dollars and with either never finish or will stop to finally deliver something that isn’t much to brag about? What happened to the project management concept of “lessons learned”? Why are there still so many of these projects around?

Those of us who make our living working with projects need to find a way to keep our spirits up. We need to remember the good we’ve been able to do in working with the strong projects. For the weak projects, the ones where we keep thinking there will one day be a way to really make a difference for them, we have to console ourselves with the knowledge that, and I know how trite this is, but “you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink.” Sorry, but it’s the best I can do, right now.

Gloria Metrick
GeoMetrick Enterprises

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