by Jim Vaughan

The tool does not make the project manager

Jan 10, 2010
IT Leadership

Many organizations believe the right tool will provide them with a project management culture.

I can’t tell you how many companies that I have talked with and heard that they just bought the latest project management tool and they now have project management. As a dabbler in wood working I can tell you that I know that the right tool can make all the difference. My biggest problem is learning how to properly use the tool. We know that wood working has been since the days of Noah. So these tools have been very well designed to serve their purpose around quite well. I wonder if Noah had a project plan and what tool he used to develop that plan.

Certainly our IT projects today are much more complicated than building an ark but probably not as complicated as putting John Glenn into orbit. I can’t attest to this for certain but I feel comfortable thinking that there were no computerized project management tools when NASA was developing the Gemini program. Most companies today could not imagine managing such a program without some highly technological tool.

I have led many large and complex software development programs or projects although these are not on the same scale of the Gemini program. Most of the projects I led without the use of a project management tool. The most complex tool I used was probably a spreadsheet. In fact, for one of the largest projects I led we created a network diagram using a tool which, at the time, did not even automatically connect all the boxes!

You see it is not the tool that makes project management successful. It is the techniques and processes that support a culture of project management. Rather than wedging in a tool and trying to get the organization to work around the tool, we must develop a culture and find a tool that supports the culture. The tool must be capable of supporting the needs of the project management culture. Without the proper culture, techniques and processes, the best tool will not help the organization. I could buy the best saw but if I don’t know how to use it I will likely cut more fingers than wood. Trying to wedge a tool into an organization will cut off the fingers of success.

So before you go out and buy the next slick tool from the used car salesman who traded in his plaid sport coat for a pin-striped suit, think about building a culture and then finding a tool to support that culture.

You see it is not the tool that makes the project manager; it is the project manager that makes the tool.