IT Project Managers: Why You Should Let Go of Control

Project Mangers do not want to give up controlProject Managers don’t want to give up control. They want to manage as they have always managed, using “proven” methods and processes. And yet as an industry, our results are mediocre at best, dismal if being honest. It’s time to learn how to put people first to improve the likelihood of successful project delivery.

In my blog post, “Why So Many IT Projects Fail: A ‘People First’ Companion to PMBOK”, I made the audacious claim that focus on technology and process is not enough. We need to also focus on the people aspects of managing these large, complex, multi-year, multi-person projects. We need to put people first.

What IT Says About Putting People First

Here’s what’s so interesting. When I talk to IT executives and Project Managers about focusing on the people that comprise their project teams, I get a very quick standard response. It goes something like this:

“We DO put our people first. Every single one of our team leads is PMI-certified. We hold brown bag lunches to discuss best practices around agile methodology or our toolset. We’ve sent 75% of our project staff to <latest technology> training.”

As I was saying, technology and process is the focus….

What Human Capital and End-Users Say About Putting People First

End-users are made to feel inadequateYet when I talk to their human capital counterparts, I get a much different response. It goes something like this: vigorous head nods and violent agreement. These project professionals agree that there is too much focus placed on technology and process (refer to the Project Managers’ response above), and not nearly enough (if any) on taking care of the people on the project, both IT project staff and the end-users seconded to the project as subject matter experts.

Similarly, when I ask the end-users about their project experience, I get an even different response. They are often made to feel inadequate, inferior and less intelligent simply because they are not well-versed in technology and/or process.

They are loaned to the projects for their subject matter expertise and for their guidance during requirements definition, system design and user acceptance testing. Yet they are made to feel “less than” – why?

It’s Time for Project Managers to Put People First on Their Projects

Here’s a thought. Our industry, that of software development and delivering software solutions to our clients and end-users, is only about 50-60 years old. From the beginning there was an aura, almost a reverence, around super-smart IT people (certainly this was my early experience from the mid-1970s). Project Managers were held in high-esteem as they worked miracles to deliver computer systems. They were so intelligent and capable that timeline and budget overruns and missed requirements were overlooked as something that just happens – after all these are complex problems to be solved.

We as project delivery experts began to believe our own press. I think much of that attitude has carried over into modern project delivery. Project Managers do not put people first because it requires letting go of control. It requires trust. There is a fear that this would slow progress and result in poor project decisions.

And so, the very activity that would accelerate project progress and improve the likelihood of project success is discounted. Putting people first is discounted in favor of managing project delivery the way it’s always been done – relying on our industry’s methodologies and processes in the hopes that these are the silver bullets that will bring success.

And yet we have mediocre results: 40% of projects over budget, fully half implemented late, 30% not including all that the end-user contracted for, and one in seven not ever completed. Isn’t it time to look at project delivery differently?

52 Project Management Success Tips

Join me over these 52 weeks to explore proven tips, techniques, skills, and attitudes that can be readily learned and utilized to increase the likelihood of your project success – proven strategies of focusing on people, of putting people first.


Merv Jersak
If you want your IT projects to come in on time and within budget; if you want your clients to be your best ambassadors and your project teams to be committed to your success; if you want to stop leaving money on the table – then Merv Jersak is the mentor and coach who will work with you to help attain the results to which you aspire. With more than 40 years’ experience as an IT Project Management and systems consultant, Merv works with IT solution providers and end-user organizations, focusing on the people aspects of project delivery to drive more profit to the bottom line and to have fewer budget overruns.

To learn more about Merv’s service offerings, or to hire him to speak to your organization, visit www.PeopleFirstProjectManagement.com.

EMAIL merv@PeopleFirstProjectManagement.com // LINKEDIN www.linkedin.com/in/mervjersak

52 Project Management Success Tips from Merv Jersak  •  Copyright ©2020. All rights reserved.