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Focus on project management outcomes, not processes

Picture of people round a tableWe’ve been doing some thinking at work recently about how to improve the project management processes.  The processes aren’t terrible, but it’s good to review them every so often to see how the rest of the business has changed and how we should keep up.

However, project management outcomes are more important than processes.  Processes should facilitate outcomes, but often we spend so much time looking at process maps that we forget what the processes are even there for.

Managing outcomes

Project teams should be geared around delivering outcomes.  Processes can help you get there in a repeatable way.  Processes add structure, which is good for new starters and for making sure things are done almost automatically.  But don’t design your team around how the processes work: design it around what you want the projects to do.

Project management outcomes are the results – the outputs from any process.  This is what counts.  Processes are how you get there.  That makes processes relevant and important.  But when you design project management processes you should focus on the end result: the outcome.  If the process doesn’t help you get there then it isn’t a very good process.

Do any of your processes hinder, rather than help, you achieve your objectives?  If so, what are you going to do about it?

About Elizabeth Harrin

Elizabeth HarrinElizabeth Harrin FAPM is a professional project manager and award-winning blogger behind A Girl's Guide To Project Management. She's passionate about demystifying project management and making tools and techniques work in the real world. She's also the author of several books including the PMI bestseller, Collaboration Tools for Project Managers.
Elizabeth lives in the UK with her family. She uses her organisation and project management skills at home, and also to help other bloggers at Totally Organised Blogging.


  1. Geoff Crane says

    10 April, 2011 at 11:31 pm

    This is an ongoing debate I’ve had with many of my colleagues. I once worked for a firm that sold processes. As such, the process was the thing that got the most attention; the results were incidental outcomes to the actual product. Also, because so much attention was on the process, when it needed to be changed, a lot of time would get lost in debate. My attitude: if it’s not working, throw the damn thing out!

    Look at it this way: if you get on a plane to fly to London, and you realize halfway through you’re actually on your way to La Paz, or Kuala Lumpur (or worse, you’re about to crash), then the vehicle isn’t really meeting your needs. It may have held promise when you first boarded, but now that you know better, it’s really best to land the plane and get on a new one.

    • Elizabeth says

      11 April, 2011 at 8:22 pm

      Geoff, thanks for your comment! We are redesigning some processes at the moment and we have to keep focusing on the end goal, otherwise what’s the point? Your plane analogy is really good – I might use that in our next meeting!

  2. Marisela Fernandez says

    10 April, 2011 at 5:17 pm

    This is a great post, many jobs have processes that have been out dated and never updated. Yet bosses still try to in force the process and make it look like your doing something wrong even thought the outcomes are there. From now on I will try to point such issues out because who knows a process better than the ones who are supposed to follow them.

    • Elizabeth says

      11 April, 2011 at 8:15 pm

      Marisela – absolutely! This reminds me of a story I heard (and I can’t remember where). A woman was cooking a fish and she cut off the head and tail and put it in the pan. Her daughter asked her why she did that, and the mother said, “My mother did it like this.” The daughter asked her grandmother why she did it, and the grandmother said, “My mother did it like this.” The daughter asked her great-grandmother why she did it, and the great-grandmother said, “I didn’t have a pan big enough to cook the whole fish.”


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