The importance of fundamentals in project management is obvious, but easy to lose sight of.
As professionals who constantly strive to improve, we study, read, take courses, attend seminars, listen to podcasts and more — all to become better project managers. Ironically, sometimes this desire to learn causes us to lose focus on the fundamentals.
Instead, we look to novelty, the latest trends and perhaps even the latest fads in the interest of improving.
Likewise, we might embrace sophisticated techniques without ensuring that we’ve properly implemented the basic things on which the sophisticated techniques depend.
I’ve often heard great sports figures and musicians emphasize the importance of fundamentals in their success. Project managers would do well to place similar emphasis on the basics of our profession. I’d go even further to suggest that before we embrace any new or sophisticated technique, we should first look at how well we are implementing the fundamentals.
For example, what good does it do us to implement the latest agile techniques on a project where we haven’t adequately implemented rudimentary change management disciplines? Similarly, what good would it do to implement Monte Carlo simulations in a context where we haven’t adequately identified basic risks?
In my estimation, our success depends almost entirely on how well we have implemented fundamental risk and change management processes.
Things go wrong and plans change — yet we often charge ahead without adequately planning and preparing for those realities. Certainly, our intuition tells us this is true, and our experience validates our intuition. Yet it still often happens that we lose sight of the obvious fact that the basics matter and matter most.
If you should ever waiver in your conviction, look no further than PMI’s 2012 Pulse of the Profession. The report notes that change management and project management basics are among the most critical project success factors.
New and sophisticated techniques have their place, but the best thing to do in any profession is to go back to basics. Don’t let the allure of the sophisticated or the novel, distract us from the value of fundamentals.
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