Swinging a Project Takes Much More Than Project Management

Remember the famous cartoon about project management? As tech professionals involved in large-scale team projects, we think it’s pretty clever…and unfortunately spot on with reality.

Here it is again:

As clever as the cartoon is, it got us thinking…what does it actually take to get a project off the ground successfully? Does project management always have to be so difficult?

Here’s our take on tech projects:

This one’s a bit more cynical, but unfortunately also true. Do you agree? Does it feel like nobody’s on the same page and it’s impossible to swing a large scale project? (Pun intended, yes, we know it’s corny.)

Here are the 5 main issues:

  1. Ideas vs. execution. Oftentimes in a tech venture, the MBAs are afraid that the programmers will steal the idea. In reality, an idea can’t go very far without proper execution. This execution part takes teamwork, skill, leadership, funding, and project management. Therefore, it is foolish to worry that an idea will get stolen. An idea without execution is not worth much.
  2. Marketing vs. product development. Programmers often believe that product development is everything and marketing is trivial. They discount the business leader’s skill in marketing and packaging a product. In reality, marketing is just as important as the product development. You can have the best product in the world, but it will not go very far if nobody knows about it.
  3. Money. Most of the time, more money is better than no money. However, money is not always the end-all be-all solution to a successful endeavor. Venture capitalists think that pushing more and more money into a project will make it go, but in truth, there are many other factors to be considered. Rather than focusing on the amount of money, project leaders need to focus on where it’s going. Is the money funding the right talent, the right leadership, and the right resources to make the execution successful?
  4. Money again. Like the venture capitalist, the entrepreneur also believes that all he needs is money. Idea + money = success. Done. But, not so fast…entrepreneurs also often miss the execution part. Ideas are great, but without the right talent, resource allocation, planning, and leadership, no amount of money in the world will make the idea succeed.
  5. Analyzing from afar. It’s easy to pick apart a business’s successes and failures from far away. Journalists can write pages upon pages about the reasons behind the outcomes, but only the guys and gals inside the venture know the truth. The doers — the talent behind the execution and the business processes — those are the people that really know what’s going on.

The point is, a project is a team effort. The MBAs need to trust the programmers. The programmers need to value the MBAs. And, no matter how much money you throw into a venture, it won’t work unless you have the right people collaborating toward a common goal. Of course, on the bright side, if a project fails, the journalists (we love you) have more to write about.

But really, to succeed, here’s what we need:

Great people. Communicating. On the same page. Working toward a common purpose.

Purpose is the key. Great minds working on a common goal can bring incredible results. Whether you call this Napoleon Hill’s “definiteness of purpose” or Simon Sinek’s “start with why,” it’s that simple question that will get the project off the ground.

So, next time you think about building anything new — high tech code or low tech swing — get your team together first and discuss the “why.” Why are you all working together? What is the purpose of the project?

When you establish the common “why,” that’s when the trust, the money, and the communication will all fall into place.