Thursday, July 8, 2010

Aha Moment: It's About Humans, by Bas de Baar

Aha moments in Project Management? We all have them. I remember my first big aha-Erlebnis.

During my study I performed field research at a large organization. The projects their Project Managers performed suffered from what they called “interventions”, which were changes triggered by the project environment. Being educated as a plan-driven-pro, I set out my checklist and searched for forgotten process components, only to find out after a couple of months that everything was neatly in place. From standard documents to procedures, they had it all. And still the project went from left to right.

Being the eager beaver that I was, I just kept on looking and looking for the missing ingredient but could not find a single clue to locating the feature or process that would help to solve the pressing problem. At one given moment, I had an “aha”-accident (a hit on the head), which turned out to be a life altering moment professionally. At the coffee corner, I overheard fellow project team members have a conversation about a procedure that they were not going to follow. My jaw dropped. Not following the official procedure? Not complying with company policies? If they didn’t follow procedure then all the changes implemented were going to be completed without the project manager’s knowledge – clonk. The penny dropped. It seems so simple now, but it really rocked my world at the time. They forgot to deal with the people.

Bas de Baar (The Project Shrink) is author of the book “Surprise! Now You’re a Software Project Manager” (available on and and is a member of The PMI New Media Council.

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