The PMBOK Guide describes 42 processes necessary to manage a project, and organizes them into five process groups and nine knowledge areas.
It takes nothing away from the Project Management Institute formulation to state the basic truth that not a single process, not a shred of knowledge is worth anything without one factor that is the ultimate essential. It is, in the fine old Latin phrase, “sine qua non – without which nothing.”
This prime-moving element is no mystery, no mystery at all, but its universal absence from Project Management talk suggests that it’s too delicate a concept for its name to be uttered in polite company.
I rewind and rerun in my imagination the project meetings of my life, especially the famous opening act: the initial organizational session.
I see once more the veiled eyes, the crossed arms, the sagging body language, the disguised yawns and smirks. Hear the doubts and obstacles and competing priorities. Workloads. I feel the palpable rejection and get that old familiar lost, gone feeling, sliding down that slippery slope once again. All alone.
Then I fast forward to today’s older-wiser mental video of the project manager behavior that reflects a deep understanding of why those long-ago days were the way they were, and a complete grasp of what it is that was missing then.
Not only does this modern project manager understand the situation and grasp its implications, he/she also knows what to do about it. This project manager will not become immersed in planning details that result in nothing. Or get entangled in excuses, squabbles and slippages. This project manager will pay attention to business, and will do so in an order of priorities that recognizes the sine qua non of commitment.
The project manager constructively engages the very deep-down human infrastructure that guarantees successful project performance and full satisfaction of the project intent. This project manager has, in fact, done what needs to be done about it before this first project meeting, and will now proceed to do it again.