Taming the Project Elephant, One View at a Time

Ian Needs

In Akira Kurosawa’s 1950 classic Rashomon, several characters provide a highly dramatised example of the old “blind men and an elephant” parable: they each deliver contradicting (and self-serving) accounts of the same central narrative.

This is great grist for cinema buffs’ discussions; it’s considerably less fun in real life, where a shared, real-time understanding of the facts are needed to pick and execute projects that align with strategy, utilise resources better, increase profits and build strong customer/partner relationships.

In a project-driven organisation, there must be a single view of the beast available to all. It’s okay for project execution methods to vary, but everybody needs a centralised picture of the metrics. For organisations with multiple, overlapping projects and large, distributed teams, having all project data available via a centrally shared tool creates the basis for top-to-bottom project excellence.

Execution-level and PMO (programme/project management office) staff can gain an immediate understanding of how much employees were spending while working on individual projects. Higher up the strategy chain, project portfolio management leaders can synthesise performance metrics from individual projects to gain a better understanding of project capitalisation rates—driving better top-down decisions in the future.

Returning to elephant analogies, there may be times when a view of the whole beast is more than what is required. To put a twist on the business adage that gives encouragement to people facing large and daunting undertakings: How do you eat an elephant? One view at a time!

It’s fine if we all look at the “elephant” from separate perspectives—zooming in is required to execute our specialised roles. But there can be no doubt about the nature and dimensions of the beast if those granular, role-based views are to be meaningful at all. A centralised view is necessary to make sure that all data is accurately recorded and kept in one location.