Every project requires a jockey – someone who rides the process to the end, over hurdles, round the bends, through the field, across the finishing line and hopefully into the winner’s enclosure.
I first heard the term “Process Jockey” in a casual conversation with a friend who heads a team of project managers in financial services; I’d never heard it before but immediately got it.
Dictionary definitions of Jockey include:
- a person who pilots, operates, or guides the movement of something.
- to struggle by every available means to gain or achieve something.
- a person “Jockeys” something in order to control or manoeuvre an item or challenge.
I digress, but I’m sure you get the concept of Process Jockeys.
So many project managers are process jockeys; they follow every step and every stage of the written process across the finish line but still don’t get into the winner’s enclosure.
For some unknown reason the project did not deliver the expected outcome, the goal, the objective, the very purpose of the project – it’s not about getting to the end of the process or round the course. Projects are not an end in themselves; they are a means to an end!
Back to my friend who has witnessed on a number of occasions qualified project managers struggling to explain at the project wrap up, why the project failed and at the same time fall back on the bemused phrase “but we followed every step of the process”.
What factors contribute to a failed project?
- Processes give you the best known steps for success but success is not always guaranteed as the process may be out dated (no longer fit for purpose).
- The project brief may be lacking in detail, clarity and deliverability (not fit for purpose).
- Things change in the life of the project especially the longer the time frame, and factors often beyond your control can come into play (and the process and the brief are no longer fit for purpose)
- You have the wrong Jockey.
Why are Process Jockeys so important?
A Process Jockey with the experience to recognise change, the confidence to suggest change, the competence to effect change, and like champion Jockey Pat Eddery who had more than 70 rides before the first of his 4,633 winners, the character to get back on the horse, is more likely to get you into the winner’s enclosure.
Experience is Key!
Often there are not enough projects on the go within an organisation for a Project Manager to get this type of experience.
One very good reason why someone looking to build a career in Project Management may need to move to different companies and sectors to ride different horses on different courses, and why companies may have to recruit external Project Managers to get into the winner’s enclosure.