Do your project managers focus on process or delivery?

I’ve struggled in the past with using the term “project manager” to describe what I do. It almost immediately triggers the question of whether I am PMP certified, and focuses less on my experience delivering projects. Additionally, I think there are quite a few employment roles today that include some project management responsibility. Doing basic project management tasks like scheduling meetings, doing status reports and checking the schedule does not automatically mean that you are able to deliver a project to its completion.


Rudy Gottschalk wrote a two-part series on shifting from “project management” to “delivery management.” He challenged all of us to look for a different approach, shifting the focus from project artifacts to project delivery.

“Too often project managers follow the rigors of a project management structure, but seem to have no sense of urgency in delivery or at times feel helpless to take control of the project delivery schedule.  They dutifully note progress, document issues and risks, and send minutes with the next meeting invitation. Since these activities fulfill the checklist of project management deliverables required by the organization, they usually give the illusion of progress, although little progress is actually occurring.”

I see this all too often in organizations. One manifestation is very large organizations, where a Project Manager from the PMO (project management office) AND a IT PM (AKA business analyst or delivery manager) get assigned to a project. In this scenario, both resources are expected to coordinate meetings, document decisions and communicate to stakeholders. The real distinction comes in their focus. The project manager tends to focus on following best practices and making sure every box is checked. Often, they are super cautious and tend to be more worried about creating the timelines, rather than the fluidity of project delivery. The delivery manager is primarily responsible for moving the project forward – removing obstacles, managing work assignments and facilitating ownership, driving towards a finish line. By not looking towards the endpoint, you sometimes end up in situations where there are incomplete lists of activities identified for project completion, incorrect timelines or lack of ownership and accountability.

Another manifestation of this problem can be seen in those roles with project management responsibilities. Often times, the immediacy of support tickets, status calls, status reports and the mechanics of the project “workflow” take precedence over delivering towards the end goal. Unfortunately, this can result in delays in getting to the value proposition. Ultimately, it also minimizes the importance of the critical analysis and seeing the overall picture.

If it is not obvious, I strong believe that project managers or those with any project management responsibilities need to be focused on delivery. This means focus on whatever the end result is, be it business value or a specific ROI. Without that target, it is easy to get lost in the logistics and workflow of managing a project, while not actually driving it towards a completion.

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