The Project Management Toolkit: What is really needed to make project work simple and effective?

Kathrin Jungwirth, Wednesday 15 January 2020 | Reading time: unknown

When project teams have to manage their projects with unsuitable tools, this usually ends in frustration, mistakes or completely failed projects. But you can easily prevent this in advance: Take a look at your project management toolkit. 

Imagine the following situation: You have just moved into your first own apartment and some of your friends have helped you. Now you want to assemble the new furniture together. In doing so, you realize that you only have a spoon as a tool. It will work somehow, you think to yourself and just get started. A few hours later, all the furniture is actually in place and it was quite funny to have turned the spoon into a hammer and screwdriver. Relieved that everything went well, you can consider the project "moving and furniture assembly" a success. Until you have the next move planned and find out again: you only have a spoon as a tool to use.

The first time, you took the whole thing with a sense of humor. You might even have felt some pride that you have successfully reached your goal under difficult circumstances. But now you are annoyed that you have learned nothing from it and have to work with the wrong tools again. This is exactly how it feels for many project teams that have to manage their projects with unsuitable tools again and again. This creates unnecessary frustration, leads to mistakes and to failed projects.

Check your project management toolkit!

Just try to avoid this in advance: Take a critical look at the status quo when you first encounter problems in the projects.  Find out how and with which tools your team is currently managing the project work.

  1. Which tools are currently used for project work?
  2. What causes loss of time and what causes frequent errors?

With the answers you then check your current toolkit. You will find that there are some spoons in use where a hammer or screwdriver is actually needed. You will also find that some saws that were purchased some time ago are lying around unused - simply because nothing needs to be sawn, or because nobody knew about the purchase.

It is therefore important to first reassign the existing tools to their actual field of use, and to acknowledge the limits of the tools' possible purposes. Now you can ask the third question: 3. What is needed to work easier and better?

You will come across the phenomenon that some people in the team have become experts in using the wrong tool. After assessing the situation and the tools, they will answer: "Oh, that's all right. It has worked so far." If you tidy up your toolkit, you will encounter resistance on the one hand. On the other hand, people tend to fall into euphoria and start to wish for every new tool that comes into their mind.

The perfect tool for each project team member

There is no such thing as the perfect tool, and yet it is precisely in project management that people are still looking for it. This is also shown by the fact that companies looking for a project management solution indirectly call on project management tool manufacturers for a "feature battle": The requirements catalogue is a diverse mixture of all imaginable features that have been collected in advance in all departments. In the end, the solution that can tick the most boxes wins.

In the worst case the result looks like this: Mr. Miller needs a hammer and now has a professional toolkit. He opens it, searches all six drawers, only to find that there is no hammer. In his distress he reaches for an impact drill. But for the impact drill he needs an adapter for which he has to apply for and has to wait for 10 days. Mr. Miller rightly wonders why he is being made so difficult and finally reaches for a spoon again.

So when searching for a project management software do not aim to get as much as possible for your investment. Make sure that the purchase is tailored to the needs of those who will have to use the tool on a daily basis.

Originally published on the 2017-06-01: PM-Werkzeuge: Weniger ist mehr und besser als zu viel

Author: Dr. Andreas Tremel

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