Crop Dusting with a Jumbo Jet – Project Management in the MSP/VMS World

crop dustingImplementing large-scale MSP/VMS projects force project managers to carefully examine their approach to implementations. Potential pitfalls are everywhere – data integrity issues, change management challenges, contract negotiations and technology requirements are just a few examples of what can go wrong. It is easy for a project manager to get sidetracked and over-focused on one issue, only to allow potential risks to grow into major, show-stopping issues. To avoid this trap, project managers need to leverage two approaches and“crop dusting with a jumbo jet” is the perfect analogy for this tactic.

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Jumbo jets cruise at high altitudes – let’s say 40,000 feet. In today’s MSP/VMS world, companies have complex requirements. Some have second- or even third-generation programs. Integration requirements, service-level agreement expectations and accommodations needed for various parts of the business all add up to complicated implementation plans with multiple moving parts. To be successful, a project manager must mimic a jumbo jet and fly at 40,000 feet to look over the entire project. Are we heading in the right direction or do we need to adjust our course? Is there traffic ahead that requires changes now to avoid problems in the future? Are there any“mechanical failures” that require us to set the plane down before we reach our destination?

Crop dusting, on the other hand, requires flying very close to the ground. Complex implementation often requires a project manager to get “in the weeds” to fix a particularly stubborn problem. Data integrity issues are one of the more common examples that can require focused attention. Do we have all the data we need? Is it accurate? Who will validate it? For programs that are global in scope, local requirements (payment terms, legal restrictions, currency, etc.) must be tailored to each country under a single global umbrella.To manage these complexities, direct action with short turn-around times is the most effective way to handle these situations. Stakeholders expect quick resolution when these issues arise and a targeted; “crop-dusting” approach consistently yields the best results.

Project managers must be able to cruise at 40,000 feet while simultaneously managing the details so they can “crop dust” potential problems. This is where skill and experience comes into play, allowing you to know when to do one or the other. If you stay at 40,000 feet, details might be missed. Get stuck in the weeds and the project could veer off course.

Ultimately, the success of implementation lies in the project manager’s ability to do both. The project manager must be able to soar to 40,000 feet and take stock of the project’s direction while checking the horizon for trouble ahead and ensuring the project stays on course. They need to be able to swoop down to ground level to check on the details, ensuring that all trouble spots are being addressed quickly and efficiently before they become show stoppers. Then, it is time to soar back up to 40,000 feet for another holistic view of the project. Swooping and soaring or “crop dusting with a jumbo jet” is the only way to keep the balanced perspective that will keep your MSP/VMS implementation on the right track.


Brian Clark

Brian Clark
Brian Clark is senior director, project management office, at Agile-1. He can be reached at BClark (at) Agile1 (dot) com.

Brian Clark

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