You know the story all too well. There is an immediate need to be filled, and a project is promptly launched – but with no time for analysis or planning. The modus operandi is “just get it done.”
The project manager puts together a team, quite often lacking key team members. A rough idea of the objective is communicated, but with little participation from Subject Matter Experts (SME). A never-ending battle to assign and keep the right people and skills on the team ensues.
During the project, requirements are constantly changing. Management never seem fully committed to the project and, as a result, participation falls short. Suddenly, the project is no longer a priority. Even if the project reaches completion, the results are less than optimal. The team, especially the project manager, will breath a sigh of relief when this one is over – hoping that the next project will go more smoothly.
Common Project Problems
For an organization that follows this approach, success or winning is pretty much to chance. Managers request projects without justification; projects are begun without consideration as to whether or not there are sufficient resources available to do the work; and, once a project has started, progress is not consistently monitored, or critically reviewed.
In addition, project requirements are not well thought-out at project inception, they are likely to change frequently. Requirement changes are not formally evaluated for impact on the project as a whole, and as a result the “destination” is changing constantly. Resources working on existing projects are interrupted and re-assigned to new projects, and the investment already made is often wasted. There is no widely agreed-upon prioritization of projects, as dictated by overall strategic goals and supporting business objectives. As business needs change, no formal evaluation of alternatives is made, and no evaluation on existing projects is done to determine if the original business need that started the project even still exists.
This whole situation is compounded as, in many organizations, every change initiative is implemented through a project. When attempting to facilitate change to make your company more efficient, effective and competitive, you must ask yourself if your project managers have the necessary skills, capabilities and experience.
How It Should Work
All projects are supported according to their contribution toward reaching strategic goals. All project proposals are cost-justified; and after a project is completed, results are validated. Further, no project starts unless the required resources are available.
Once started, no project resources are re-assigned without careful consideration, including the possibility for an existing project to be cancelled due to a shift in priorities. By canceling projects early on, significant savings can be achieved. Changed requirements are evaluated for impact on the project, and only those that are justified by critical business needs are approved.
in mature project organizations, projects are generally on time, within budget, and meet expectations. The result is significant savings for the organization; a side benefit is that standardized milestones used across all projects within an organization provide “sign posts” for progress, enabling all stakeholders to see the status of each project. At the conclusion of each project, a “lessons learned” review is conducted; the information gathered is used to ensure that new projects do not experience the same pitfalls.
How To Get Started
Educate the executives. Your management team must understand current results, and the ROI that could be achieved by improving cycle time and quality, and lowering costs.
Develop preliminary performance metrics. Before implementing any improvements, identify what level of performance you have now, otherwise you will not be able to quantify the savings achieved. At the very least, capture the planned project start and finish, and actual project start and finish – for every project. Make sure that the dates are captured in the same manner on all projects (e.g. the planned dates are captured at the same point in the decision process, and the actual dates are captured with the same entry/exit criteria). If possible, get planned project cost, actual project cost, and planned and delivered functionality measures as well.
Implement preliminary “what-if” analyses, and anticipate the need for corrective steps. Once you know your results, you can implement both simple and effective improvements. At the beginning of a process improvement effort, there is usually some obvious “low-hanging fruit” – such corrective measures that make life easier for the project managers are a good place to start. Then, as they realize the improvements have helped them, they will more likely support additional improvements.
Don’t expect to transition from an immature project organization environment to highly optimized one overnight. You must allow the organization to pace itself, taking into account the absorption rate of change before you embark on improving project, resource and portfolio management.
You’ll need to ensure that everyone in your organization receives the required training and education. But, the sooner you begin your journey, the sooner you’ll arrive at your destination and the more often you will realize project success!