Measure The Value Not The Cost

Yesterday I met a really smart man. But not only is he smart he’s also clever. You see he’d called me to talk about helping with a ‘Red’ project. A big project that’s very complicated, has a very big budget and is on its fourth project manager. It should be finished.

There’s nothing unusual about getting a call for a meeting like this. In fact I get several every week. The difference this time though was evident from his opening sentence. “I’m so frustrated. Why do PM’s always focus on ‘the spend’ under their control and not on achieving the benefit they’re responsible for? Everyone keeps talking about the budget for this project and no one talks about the reason we’re doing it, the upside and the benefits. We should already be achieving a 7% increase in profit, straight to the bottom line but instead we’re fighting over small decisions. And they’ve now been re-planning for the last two weeks!”

This was music to my ears. For a long time now the conversation around projects and their value has been about the size of the budget and the resources applied to them. People proudly put the budget and resources in their CV and excitedly talk about them in conversation. When this happens, little nerves dance in my spine and I get agitated.

The first thing I ask is how will you know if the project is successful? I could write a book and I just might one day, about the answers to that question. Basically if the answer is anything other than clear, concise and about the reason for the project; I know they think project managing is about administering ‘the spend’ and application of resources.

A red flag comment which I can’t resist putting here is “the burn rate is….”. My jaw clenches and I try to maintain my composure. It’s an insult to the people investing to get an outcome that anyone would even think about ‘burning’ their money.

But I digress. As I said at the start this guy is both smart and clever. Smart because he knows projects are about the value they facilitate for the organization. He’s clever because he’s no longer listening to the orthodoxy around projects. He’s cleverly decided that in order to get what he wants he must do what the others aren’t. And yes that’s where we come in.