Success is What Happens When We Take Care of Our People

One of my favorite projects was a large, fixed-price, fixed-end date project for an organization that had never in its history delivered a systems project on time. I was bid as the Project Manager. It was early in my career as a Project Manager, and believe me I was scared.

Arriving on site, I took stock of my team (still embryonic), and the end-users provided to the project (wide-eyed and looking for any kind of direction). It became obvious (at least to me) that I was about to undertake a 30-month death march that was ultimately doomed for failure.

So I did what any frightened, green PM would do – I called for help. Fortunately, my VP was understanding and despite the hit to the bottom line, he brought in a seasoned PM to do two things: 1) to get the project started on an excellent footing, and 2) to train me in handling a project that I clearly thought was above my current experience level.

End-users are part of the project team. Celebrate them.We instituted a number of principles immediately, some of which included:

  • all staff would be expected to speak up immediately if they encountered an issue or challenge in their area of responsibility, and they would be heard;
  • end-user staff were made co-equal contributors to project activities;
  • IT staff and end-user staff were co-located in the same office space;
  • project celebrations, luncheons, even weekend activities were team-based and included our end-user teammates;
  • team members were encouraged to eat lunches together and not always with the same people;
  • we worked hard all week to maintain the project schedule; but there would be no work on the weekends;
  • IT staff would learn the language of the business, and not the end-users learning the language of IT;
  • for every task that the end-users were expected to undertake, IT would train them to perform and guide them along the way while allowing the end-users to maintain their autonomy.

The results were beyond my expectations for a successful outcome. The seasoned PM was able to leave the project earlier than expected, leaving it to me to complete. The IT and end-user co-located teams worked so well together that we finished the project on-time, and came under budget! – this despite, or perhaps because of, adding the seasoned PM to initiate the project. And executives from the sponsoring agency gave our project team a huge commendation. Even they had expected a major project overrun complete with change orders that would balloon their budget.

To what do I owe this incredible success? If I had to boil it down to one major factor, it was because my senior PM who mentored me taught me to put people first. From the beginning of the project through the implementation of the system, we never wavered from this principle.

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


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