Discipline, focus and fun
Discipline, focus…AND fun will ensure successful projects
Project Management is a critical business capability. Billions of dollars are involved annually in the delivery of small to medium-sized projects. The capability to effectively delivery business projects is, however, by no means universal – most projects fail to deliver. PWC, which reviewed 10,640 projects from 200 companies in 30 countries and across various industries, found that only 2.5% of the companies successfully completed 100% of their projects. A study published in the Harvard Business Review, which analysed 1,471 IT projects, found that the average overrun was 27%, but one in six projects had a cost overrun of 200% on average and a schedule overrun of almost 70% (Gallup.com).
Ironically, the basic skills are generally well known. Most people will profess some familiarity with projects and their management, with many having attended some sort of PM training. Despite this, projects continue to see missed deadlines, overrun budgets – or worse, no results. Whilst skills are widely held, projects continue to fail because individuals may know “what” to do, but organisations do not know “how” to do it. Whilst PM should be integrated into the management of the business, it often is not. Projects are treated as “business as usual” with little governance and the resources required for effective delivery are frequently underestimated.
A comprehensive programme approach, as well as a focus on project management, is needed to ensure that projects consistently deliver their intended results. Programme Management relies on 3 critical elements:
Knowledge of a common set of project skills and tools
Effective governance structure
Generally if any one of these elements is missing, then project success tends to be more reliant on good fortune than successfully manage its projects.
Common Causes of Poor Project Management
The program / project manager is part time and has other, pressing duties
People assigned to the tasks are very part time
Often a few key people are on several with little time available to dedicate to the project
The fun factor is often overlooked to the detriment of the project. Actively ensuring that team members are being rewarded, recognised and given opportunities to work on elements that help them find their flow and keep them motivated and on task.
The task is not seen as the most important part of people’s job – they almost have to sneak away to do it
Review meetings are difficult to organise and don’t happen frequently enough to take appropriate, timely corrective action
When a task is behind schedule, the causes (especially part time, busy people) also make it difficult to correct the situation.
Businesses need a basic set of tools and disciplines to coordinate and control the activities associated with successful implementation – in particular, a standard approach, tool kit and common language that effectively put everyone in the organisation on “the same page”.
To be successful at project management, for each project, a business needs to do the following well:
STAGE 1: PLAN
Lift the focus on projects
Define the problem and agree what needs to be done
Focus on what is most important first
Put tangible, robust plans in place with project charters that clearly:
Define who the Sponsor (the barrier buster) and the Project Manager (the clear leader) are
State objectives with clear business benefits
List measureable benefits
Break the work down into tasks and work out in detail how each task will be performed
Identify links and dependencies required for the project to succeed
Assign people to each task and who is responsible for each task
Define the physical deliverables
Outline the risks and their mitigation
State who and what resources need to be committed, including costs
List at least six clear milestones in addition to the start and finish of the project
Build in motivational tools to keep team members focussed and engaged, e.g. reward and recognition through gamefication
STAGE 2: IMPLEMENT
Brief team members
Decide how the program / project will be monitored, by whom and the responsibilities and authorities of those involved; especially in taking action to get things back on track (that might involve “forcing” people to spend time on a task or extra money)
Keep team members focussed and engaged through recognition and reward
Do each task on time and within budget
Coordinate with other related tasks
Respond to problems and take corrective action
Monitor the results of the program/project to make sure it is delivering as intended. If not do something.
So some industries have a culture of bringing in projects on time or early. However others do not. One way to break of this circle is to employ a specialist to be responsible for bringing the program in on time. He would do this by:
Bringing the skills and discipline to do all of the tasks well
Ensuring that the program is doable – especially that resources are adequate. This usually involves considerable skill and stubbornness.
Continually communicating with all task leaders and monitor everything.
Spotting very early when something is wrong and ensuring that it is immediately corrected
Reporting back regularly to the organisation on the state of the program and the effects of this on the project costs, finish date and therefore on the timing of the benefits from the project.
To do all of this the specialist would ensure that he had the authority and also the support of someone very senior with real clout. Such a specialist can contribute dramatically to lift the importance and performance of a programme.