041 – Witness me! Justifying Project Management

041 – Witness me! Justifying Project Management

Have you ever had to justify the value of Project Management in your organization? Doh! So do we. Listen in as we share our best responses to, “is PM really needed?”

You don’t have to justify the existence of the Finance team. Or Sales & Marketing. Or Executive Management. So why do we have to justify the existence of Project Management? Well, there are a couple reasons. This week we explore this question and share some of our favorite responses to help educate our stakeholders and show the value of what we do.


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Check out this episode!

Show Notes

Often times PM has a BAD name. It’s seen as:

● Obstructionist
● Low value add
● Forces too much process

Because of this, a lot of times you need to justify why an organization needs a PM. In this episode, we’ll help you combat some of the most common excuses we get on why a business will not need a PM.

Reality Check [4:30]

Does Project Management actually solve all your problems, and is it the right tool all the time?
Project Management is not the right tool all the time. One of the key things about project management is that the project itself has a definition. It has a beginning, middle, and an end. If what you’re working on doesn’t have these vital parts, then project management isn’t the solution to manage it. The same thing goes if the project is really small and only requires a
day’s worth of work. Additionally, even the best PM can’t fix a stupid idea for a project or a broken sponsor. What they’ll likely have to do is advice to reset the project or totally dump it.

Justifying PM on Internal Projects [7:41]

While Project Management doesn’t always require a PM title, something that’s important to consider is that the justification for project management is different between internal and external PMs, with internal being a centralized or decentralized PMO, and external being a consultant paid to come into an organization and execute a body of work.
Internally, here are a few things to consider:
1. Do they know what Project Management is? Often times it’s an education exercise to get your organization to understand that there is indeed a profession and a body of knowledge around making projects succeed. And who doesn’t want their projects to succeed? This often happens in smaller, newer organizations who are taking on larger amounts of work but haven’t worked with project management previously.

2. What is your leadership’s previous experience with project management? Some leaders have had a bad experience with project management. Maybe they feel the PM didn’t provide timely updates, or kept them in the dark, or maybe they didn’t realize any value from the PM. And here, it’s important to think about project management as an industry – it’s our job to
be great at this, since a rising tide lifts all ships!
But off our soapbox, we believe the best strategy here is to get to understand what your stakeholders value, complete our stakeholder worksheet on our site, take them to coffee, tell them you want a positive working relationship, and to do that, you want to understand what information they need to feel like they are supported by the project manager.
3. Communicate to your management in terms of accountability. What are the investments in this project and the value you expect? How many internal resources are you committing? How important is the outcome to the business? What is the risk if this doesn’t happen – or if this goes terribly wrong? Who are you holding accountable to delivering that? (It should be a Project Manager).
● If they say “Nobody” then that’s foolish, call them on it.
● If they say, “You” then say, “I can take that responsibility and help make this succeed, but you have to give me the authority and resources.”
● If they say, “Oh, I will manage it,” start asking pointed questions about how they are going to do that.

We really like pointing out the budget and resources invested in projects – this works for a PM as well as a PMO. If you look at the total project or portfolio investment, they can exceed the budget for entire lines of business in your organization. Would your management team allow one of those lines of business to run without someone in charge or for success? Of course not.

Justifying PM to External Clients [23:00]

1. We often hear “I have my own Project Managers, why would I pay for yours?”
● We can say, “Great! You will need them! There is organization change you need to handle within your organization, and there are obligations on your part for this project to succeed which need to be managed from your side. And there are things on our side that need to be managed to ensure success as well – and that’s our PM’s job. Working together is how we are going to succeed.”

2. My PM can manage your delivery

● “Our PM has delivered like-services many times before with different customers. So, our PM team brings the experience of knowing how to run these things, knows the most efficient methods, and knows where things can go wrong. And we
won’t put your business at risk by not having that knowledge.”
● “If you the customer are going to manage the project, then you would need to be prepared to take full responsibility for project success or failure,  because in that case, we’d merely be a resource outsourcer and not delivering a solution to you.”
● For companies that sell PM with other services, it is sad to see them have a whole section of the SOW saying “This is the PM stuff we do,” then “This is the tech or subject matter stuff we do.” The problem with this thinking is that it implies that the delivery is different from Project Management. Project management is the way we do things, so it is completely intertwined with the delivery of the tech or subject matter.

Agile [28:11]

“But we’re Agile, and Agile doesn’t use PMs.”
● Agile infrequently is truly agile when it comes to projects. Agile is supposed to deliver a functional product with each release, not necessarily a scope of work. The moment you’re working on a specific set of criteria that must be delivered by a certain date, you’re running a project, maybe a more agile project, but it’s a project nonetheless, and needs to be managed as such.
● Here are some questions you can ask to combat this reasoning. “What is your project budget? OK, so you are not going to hold anyone in your organization accountable for that spending? Or for delivering this value to your organization?”
● Agile could also be more of an operational methodology than a project methodology.
● If you need to justify that Agile needs a PM, you can say, “Agile needs a scrum master and scrum masters do a PM job.” Then you can ask where the scrum master is, who’s managing the backlogs and if they say they’re going to do it, you can rebut by asking when they’re going to have time to do it.

There are many excuses you’ll hear why you won’t be needed as a Project Manager, which is why you have to make sure that the folks you’re working with know what project management is, and that you understand what their previous experience is with them. Remember to communicate your value in terms of accountability, and position yourself as
someone who enables the business to succeed.

Key Probing Questions

● Do I understand where their objection is coming from?
● Do they really understand what project management is?
● What is the context of the project?
● What is the cost of not having project management today?

You may be in trouble if…

● You’re not willing to work with an organization.
● You’re expecting your organization to recognize the value of project management without educating them or showing them its value.

Principles for Success

● Keep doing the great work that you’re doing.

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