The case of the missing project manager

A true story! Only the name has been changed.

Day 1

0930: No JT today?

Reply: I’ve not seen him today. (In a raised voice) anyone seen John? No reply

1030: Please ring JT and see if he is joining us

1045: There’s no reply from his phone. It went straight to voicemail.

Day 2

0900:I wonder if JT is OK. He’s pretty reliable however we did not hear from him all day yesterday. I wonder what happened with the contractors he met.

0945: No response from JT’s phone. Voice mail again.

We are in need of a response about the changes suggested by marketing. He was in the middle of talking to them. If approved they need to be actioned by close of play this week.

Day 3

You live near JT don’t you?

I do, yes.

OK, please go round to his house and see if he is OK. I am worried, and there are some real blockages appearing in the project which he was dealing with.

Day 4

0900: Bad news. I went to JT’s house and there’s no furniture, curtains – nothing. Stripped bare. He’s gone. He’s missing………..

Far fetched? No. This is a true story told to me some years ago by a couple of people in a project team.

I find myself retelling this story many times, – especially over the last 18 months. The reason is that some people are not happy with the paperwork side of project management. I then tell them this story and the impact the missing project manager had on the project. You see, there was no paperwork at all. The project manager kept all things in his head. The results were:

  1. The contractor he met on day 2 told the new project manager and project team what had been agreed. They did not believe the contractor’s story and tried to renegotiate the deal. The contractor would not agree to this and there was a feeling of distrust and higher than budgeted bills
  2. The new project manager worked 18 hours a day to catch up, and had to work with a project team who were not happy with the rework and extra hours they had to do
  3. Change requests – this was referred to above and it was necessary to hold on all change requests (5 in total) until the new project manage understood what they meant
  4. The project met its deadline however the quality of delivery was not as high as the project manager, sponsor and end client wanted. Compromise had to be made to ensure delivery of the project.

So, do you keep accurate project records and copies of current templates, notes of meetings and contracts? Some and only some of the repercussions are stated above. You manage the risks or they manage you.

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