Categories: Best Practices
By Lynda Bourne
After more than 40 years in project management, project controls and project governance, I’ve learned that every successful organization has its own unique culture and structure. Nothing works “out of the box.”
Each organization needs to identify the aspects of its existing culture and the parts of its management systems that offer the best opportunities for improvement, define options that may work (there are no guarantees), and decide on the steps needed to deliver the desired improvements.
This process is a journey, and the measure of success is achieving the level of maturity where continuous improvement is organic and internal.
Here are my tips for getting there:
- Set the right objectives. Projects and programs should support the organization’s strategic objectives. Achieving this requires a number of elements:
- A realistic and achievable strategic plan
- A portfolio management function designed to optimize the selection of the “right” projects and programs to undertake to maximize the delivery of strategy
- A robust and reliable process to develop and test the business cases used in the portfolio management processes, as underestimating the cost or difficulty in delivering a project guarantees failure before it starts
- A sound appreciation of risk and uncertainty to ensure adequate contingencies are in place by applying techniques such as reference class risk assessments
- Understand the objective and value proposition for each project and program. The outputs from a project enable the organization to undertake new or improved activities that are intended to create value. Decision-making needs to be based on a clear understanding of:
- The critical success factors for each project—what really matters from an organizational perspective
- The project’s overall value proposition, which involves more than simple cost accounting
- The organizational changes needed to implement the project’s deliverables and realize the intended value
- Establish organizational capabilities to manage the work of a project or program. Select contractors and suppliers based on the three Ps:
- The promise, ensuring the promised performance in terms of time, cost and scope is realistic, achievable, understood by all involved
- The performance of the work based on a robust and accurate assessment of current performance against the promise, identifying all significant variances and determining the reason why they have occurred
- The prediction of future outcomes based on current performance. The most reliable predictor of future performance is the performance to date. This will not change unless something in the performance space is done differently. Changing performance requires planning, takes time, usually involves cost and there are no guarantees of success.
- Optimize and manage risk. There is no such thing as a risk-free project. Mature organizations proactively manage all aspects of risk and opportunity ranging from safety and the environment to the achievement of the project’s objectives and value proposition.
- Prepare the organization to effectively manage change. Change is inevitable! Mature organizations have systems in place to assess and manage change requests in a proactive and time-efficient way based on the project’s overall value proposition.
- Document robust governance procedures. These should be focused on ensuring the organization’s systems and management structures are “fit for purpose” and continually improving.
Rely on These Resources for Help Along the Way
PMI has a range of resources to assist you on this journey. The newly created Standard for Organizational Project Management (OPM) provides a framework to align project, program and portfolio management practices with organizational strategy and objectives. This standard is supported by the Organizational Project Management Maturity Model (OPM3®), which defines a framework to measure progress toward maturity. These are assisted by Implementing Organizational Project Management: A Practice Guide. Finally, the Governance of Portfolios, Programs and Projects: A Practice Guide takes a closer look at the different types of governance and how you can implement or enhance governance on your portfolios, programs and projects. All of these standards are free downloads for PMI members.
This may not be the area many project managers focus on, but maybe it’s time for a change. After all, we cannot deliver successful projects when the project is set up to fail. Influencing senior management to focus on improving organizational maturity so that most projects have a fighting chance of being successful is good for everyone.
Have you created a culture of continuous improvement at your organization? I’d love to hear from you—please share below.