Project Reality Check #2: Being a Rainmaker

by Gary Monti on December 28, 2010

“Rainmaker” is a title that fits with a lot of project managers. It sets the bar high requiring a great deal of skill and political savvy to bring about the deliverable as if almost by magic. The reality is quite different. In fact, there are several realities that must be juggled to be a successful rainmaker ranging from the very concrete to the intangible. This can be seen when looked at through the nine areas of project management: scope, time, budget, human resources, procurement, quality management, risk management, communications, and integration.

Nested Easter Eggs, Projects, and the Truth

Imagine a project as a nested Russian Easter egg. At the core is the candy, the measurable deliverable – the client’s main focus. Surrounding it is the smallest Easter egg – the triple constraint. The painting on this egg is an orthogonal latticework of scope, time, and budget with one axis just a little wavy. Time and money can be measured, as can portions of the scope. The scope, however, starts bringing in the intangible because it is driven by client needs, each one of which can be multilayered itself. This is why the one axis is a little wavy.

The language of the triple constraint reflects the deliverable but is different since it includes the time and money aspect. It also is more complicated because there are three dialects; one each for scope, time, and budget.  The language gets more complicated because there is a change in the truth system being used. That is how different languages develop, i.e., attempts to describe different realities.

In other words, when we talk “deliverable” one language is used which is different from when we talk “scope, time, and budget.” For example, imagine a soccer player who can put an amazing curve on a kick. Talking about the beauty of the kick is one thing. Talking about everything that went into that player to get to the point where the kick could be made is another. (Many a beer or other beverage has been drunk enjoying going back and forth between these two languages. It’s all very human and very much a part of any project.)

The next egg (layer) has a supply chain network drawn upon it. It comprises procurement and human resources. People, equipment, facilities, etc., are needed so the project can be completed. The intangibility increases. There are more, varied conversations occurring all of which need orchestrated and harmonized. The discussion around this orchestration and harmonization creates another language with two dialects.

This brings us to the next larger egg, which has a swirling pattern of two distinct colors representing quality- and risk management. Imagine it being drawn by a pointillist. Each dot represents a specific test of a component or system (quality) or a specific threat or opportunity (risk) that must be addressed. Holding the egg at a distance the swirls can be seen representing the interaction between quality and risk and how together they influence the inner components of project management and the creation of an acceptable deliverable. And, you may have guessed it, yet another language with two dialects is created.

And what about the conversation itself? This is where communications comes into play. This egg has a nervous system painted on it. Actually it is more like an LCD display where the flow of information through the nerves can be seen. This flow represents the even greater level of intangibility. Why? The message is in the flow between the various parts of the project.

Finally, the largest most intangible egg of them all – project integration. It is invisible. This egg can be felt but can’t be seen. Imagine a magnetic bottle. There is a very real force field present containing the other eight areas of the project along with the specific project components, stakeholders, and the energy that flows between them. This egg can be experienced, it can be discussed, it can be influenced but it remains invisible. Its language is one of connection and interdependence.  It reflects the achievement of acceptable balance among all stakeholders, components, and their performance. The integration exists in that balance rather than inside any one thing or person.

The deliverable only comes alive and is acceptable when integration has occurred and is sustainable.

What does this mean? An intuitive example of connection and interdependence is the relationship between an aircraft wing, the engine, and the payload. The engine must generate sufficient thrust to propel the wing forward and generate lift. However, if a large enough engine is too heavy then the design is pointless because there is insufficient lift left for the payload.

What makes a project manager a rainmaker is the ability to achieve that integration. It is reflected in commitments within the stakeholder community. Those commitments are then mapped into the design and creation of the deliverable through the project plan and execution of the schedule. Oh, did I mention there might be some magic involved?

Gary Monti PMI presentation croppedThrough his firm, Center for Managing Change, Gary Monti has over 30 years experience providing change- and project management services internationally. He works at the nexus between strategy, business case, project-, process-, and people management. Service modalities include consulting, teaching, mentoring, and speaking. Credentials include PMP number 14 (Project Management Institute®), Myers-Briggs Type Indicator certification, and accreditation in the Cynefin methodology. Gary can be reached at gwmonti@mac.com or through Twitter at @garymonti
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