Cheryl was a fantastic project manager. If she could not lead a team to successful project completion, then nobody could. In some ways, Cheryl was like the Cat and the Hat of project management. She arrived with her very own bag of tricks. The Cat’s bag of tricks contained mayhem. Cheryl’s bag of tricks included best practices for project management. She had templates and processes, and for all stages of the project. She was intelligent and organized, and her teams enjoyed working with her. Ever the consummate professional, Cheryl loved being a consultant. She loved working for different organizations, meeting new people, and learning about new industries.
When it was time for Cheryl to move on, her project sponsors and team members would beg her to stay. And when she left, her templates and processes left with her. It’s not that she was unwilling to share. Most of her sponsors and team members did not think to keep copies of all of her work. And they rarely documented her process. And so, when Cheryl left, the loss was substantial. Out the door went a strong leader, a skilled project manager, and access to proven project management best practices.
Some of this loss could have been avoided. Of course, it would have been terrific if Cheryl had decided to stay. But, knowing that her role was to move on, her project management approach could have been documented. Or, better yet, the organization has its project management approach. When someone like Cheryl leaves, it is disappointing, and you lose a strong project manager, but you do not lose project management knowledge.
It takes time to build your approach. To document which project management deliverables will be created. To agree upon who must review and sign. It takes proper oversight to ensure that your processes are working. And it takes discipline to require all of your project managers to use the same methodology. But the best way to strengthen your organizational project management is to own it. To teach it to your people. And to have your executives support project management and buy-in to your organizational approach.
Of course, you want to hire people like Cheryl. And you should. And when you onboard them, you can teach them how projects are managed at your organization. Do not rely on outsiders to create your best practices, and do not let them leave you without your project management bag of tricks.