Only an Olympic mindset will ensure enterprise project management success

With the Olympics now behind us, I can admit now I get emotional about those athletes who have given so much of their lives to participate in the greatest sports spectacle of our generation. I have a daughter who swims competitively and, as many parents do, I am continually awed by the amount of

effort she dedicates year after year to improving herself in her chosen sport.

I’ve had the privilege of attending two Olympic Games. At my first — in Montréal in 1976 — I worked at the games helping to raise the flags at different medal ceremonies. It meant hanging out a lot with people who had just won medals, and it had a profound effect on me. In 2000, I was able to take my wife and daughter to Sydney where we enjoyed the games as spectators. The perspective was very different. Perhaps having a teenager who practises seven times a week for two hours or more at a time gave me a different look at the games but it struck me the games aren’t so much about who wins. It’s true we obsess over medals, but of the 11,000 athletes or so who participated this year in Athens, only 900 or so won medals. The other 10,200 have devoted years, in some cases more than a decade, to intense personal development, and had little or no hope of winning a medal.

When I bring this back to the project management industry and the organizations I work with who are deploying enterprise project management systems and processes, the parallels are evident.

Deploying EPM isn’t trivial. Being successful in an EPM deployment has a lot to do with treating the project seriously and being ready to do what it takes.

We have no trouble counselling a teen that to succeed in sport will take dedication and hard work, but all too often we diminish the work required to make EPM work.

Year after year we talk to mid-sized and large organizations that want to implement an enterprise project management system. We caution them about what will be required to make EPM work, but somehow, time and again, someone in management characterizes EPM as a technology project or as a simple software installation. It is rare to see an organization make the association between changing how project management works and its ensuing impact on the character of the entire organization. Yet many organizations in the past 20 years have become project-driven. Project management has become a mainstay of management thinking and project management is definitely a horizontal industry.

Projects affect everything about an organization: where money is spent, how effective the organization is at delivering new products, how fast revenue can be generated, how resources are allocated and much more. The idea that installing some new software will instantly transform this broad-reaching process from a silo-oriented single-user process into one where diverse employees and departments collaborate is optimistic at best and dangerous at worst.

We should take a page from those Olympic athletes who have planned, strategized and worked for a long time to achieve their goals.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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