The Project Manager as an artist

A dear colleague, Nick Heap, recently pointed out that as few as 16% of IT projects are successful; that is, delivered to time, budget and specification. And this is in an environment where project management is a core skill, well understood and with many qualified and experienced practitioners. It may be even lower elsewhere in business. So why is this?

Perhaps the problem is that we focus too much on the process of project management. Valuable though it is, introducing rigour, discipline and measurement, it will not deliver a project on it’s own. We may be seduced by the elegance of the project management software we use but the pretty timeline we produce is not reality. It is, at best, a guess at the future.

Nick’s research into the root causes of success found that they are all soft factors. This is hardly surprising. It’s not process that delivers a project, it’s people. Complicated, inconsistent, demanding, emotional people. The art of managing people is more important than technical project management skills.

Like any artist, project managers must develop the technical skills before their creativity can flourish. But it is their art that makes the difference.


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