Process Manager: Preventing Project Failure

The complexity of the process, and the myriad of possible outcomes, are supposedly the responsibility of one lead person…the PM (project or program – there’s one at the helm).

Perhaps it’s too much. The world is full of possibilities and process flow charts can’t account for all of them. As PMs, we are probably most familiar with the 80% rule, which says that the process should cover 80% of available process outcomes.

The problem is that when combined with other processes, that 80% degrades, according to Max Puchar, down to around 30%.

Meaning, that even when we’ve flowed out a process when the process interacts with other processes, the process will only be applicable to real-world outcomes 30% of the time.  Oh, and by the way, the PMBOK is all about interacting processes.

I’m also mesmerized by Manfred Saynisch’s idea that the PM world is undergoing a sort of mitosis, a splitting into four definable PM worlds in a new order of Project Management (dubbed PM 2nd Order).

These are:

World 1: The universe of traditional Project Management

World 2: The universe of complexity management

World 3: The universe of the human behavior

World 4: The universe of ground rules and ways of thinking

If this is true, if new thought is suggested that

  1. Process complexity is constantly adapting and therefore mapping, and the predictability of those processes is nearly impossible and
  2. Project Management is broadening to go beyond control (traditional project management – world 1), then I think that there is really no way we can continue to practice the one-person project manager model.

that is,

One person is ultimately responsible for not only the 5 PMBOK Process Groups and the 44 processes that go along with that, but the interactions with various PM worlds of knowledge that include human behavior, ground rules, and complexity management.

So, this is all very theoretical, however, I’m sure we can all draw from experience; PM as Risk Monitor, PM as Scheduler, PM as Mentor, PM as Process Cop, PM as Methodology Guru, PM as…you get my drift.

Reassessing our conception of the one PM, I think we need to have a Project Manager and a Process Manager for every project.

Hiding in plain sight is the natural human organization model that is repeated universally and instantly accepted in cultures the world over, the conception of coach and umpire.

Don’t make me do this…Both coach and umpire (or referee) are expected to fully participate in the game. We expect the umpire to know all the rules. We expect the umpire to catch us violating the rules.

We expect that even when we violate the rules the coach will fight for us (and with the umpire).  And from the coach, we expect mentorship, communication, training, and seasoned knowledge of how to win.

So, if we extend this model into Saynisch’s Worlds of Project Management, the “Project Manager” or “Coach” sphere of responsibility can reflect PM World 3(human behavior) and PM World 4 (Ground rules and ways of thinking).

This would include Human Resource Management, Scope Management, Stakeholder Management, Communications Management, Risk Management….and this.

The Process Manager, sphere of responsibility can reflect PM World 1(Traditional Project Management) and PM World 2 (Complexity Management).

This would include Schedule Management, Change Management, Integration Management, and Process Management.

It’s critical for the Process Manager to continuously monitor the process for changes in the natural human environment. Also, the Process Manager monitors for future Process alterations while enforcing the current procedure.

(This stems from Max Pucher’s Adaptive Case Management idea).

Well, isn’t that what the PMO does? Not exactly. The PMO process cop visits multiple projects but is not dedicated to one. And PMO process cop is a visitor and is usually not endowed with the same authority as the PM within the project.

I’m proposing a Process Manager who

  1. a) is equal to the Project Manager and
  2. b) completely dedicated to the project, 100% of the time.

It’s the equality part that also makes this Process Manager different from a Project Manager’s staff.

Because the Process Manager is completely dedicated to the project as ‘a rule keeper, the Project Manager is freer to provide pure leadership to the team, freer to communicate, freer to ensure the intent of the project is met, and freer to analyze and do something about risks, freer to mentor, and maybe even able to be called out when they themselves are out of line.

Because the Process Manager is equal, they have the authority to review and change the process as process owner on the project, without the us-them dynamic of the Project and PMO, and are free to enforce, even if the Project Manager doesn’t agree.

Most importantly, the Process Manager can add new rules to the book, and remove the old ones, so the project stays lean and agile. So, here’s a way to prevent project failure…. stop putting it all on one person’s plate.

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