Creating a Project Management Culture

13 September

Projects are becoming a critical part of corporate success yet research tells us that most projects do not fully succeed. According to the 2004 PriceWaterhouseCoopers Survey of 10,640 projects valued at $7.2 billion, across a broad range of industries, large and small, only 2.5% of global businesses achieve 100% project success and over 50% of global business projects fail.

Business Improvement Architect’s 2005 project management research of over 750 organizations world-wide shows that 60% of Project Management Offices (PMO) say that the organizational culture is not supportive of the PMO. Information is a bit dated however not much has changed in this arena.

The major reason for project failure is that most organizations do not ensure that all projects they implement align with their organization’s corporate strategy. Furthermore, findings show that performance management systems do not take into account new reporting structures such as Matrix Management. The result is that employees identify time spent on projects as an intrusion to their daily job. Moreover, few organizations clearly define and consistently use project success measures from one project to another and usually fail to capture and retain project knowledge. The bottom-line is that most organizations today are operating with a diversity of organizational cultures that change from one project to the next, from one department to the next. The answer is for organizations to embed the best practices that make or break their projects into the very framework and support systems (DNA) of the organization.

Project management culture is a circle, not a pyramid

Project management is collaborative, not hierarchical. Project team collaboration is an important factor in minimizing project risks, optimizing resource time and eliminating wasteful efforts and unnecessary rework. Since many projects rely on internal and external resources that are not co-located, project management creates touch points for soliciting input for discussion, debate and decision-making throughout the project life cycle.  Various team members take on leadership roles throughout the project as it relates to their domain of expertise with different people accountable for decisions at different times. The culture learning point is to agree to disagree and move forward. This environment also encourages information to roll up to the project manager so he/she can focus on conflicting priorities and resource bottlenecks.

Project management culture includes, not excludes.

Many years ago only a few folks in organizations worked on projects. Now, it seems with the fast paced world we are in, everyone is involved in projects. Today projects cross many functional units within a company. Silos must come down. Team members must cooperate, not fight. They must learn to trust each other, sharing information that was once ‘theirs and theirs alone’ to distribute the burden of project complexity and risk. Access to project information needs to be available and communicated to all people who need to know. This will ensure the change being implemented accounts for potential impacts to people, process and technology across the organization. Project management raises the visibility of project issues and decisions that are needed for the mutual good of the project and stakeholders. Project management is also a vehicle through which stakeholders are made aware of assignments, interfaces, progress, slippage and risks. The behavior learning point is project management includes holding all stakeholders accountable at all levels for carry out their role.

Project management culture is about seeing the big picture

There isn’t an executive I know who wouldn’t like to know what projects are underway in the organization and be able to evaluate the impacts of accelerating one project ahead of another. No CFO would be permitted to manage business finances in a silo however business investments (projects) in many organizations are standalone, disconnected and often not managed. With an enterprise perspective executives can truly understand the health of their business and the ripple effects of their strategic project decisions. This insight can only come from maintaining all projects within a centralized system with company wide visibility and a company wide structure to conduct project and portfolio analysis. Project management enables organizations to determine which projects can be accomplished with the resources that are available, which will provide the greatest payback given the opportunity and the investment the company is willing to make and which combination of projects best achieve their strategic objectives within the required timeframes.

Project management culture is planning with the folks doing the work

We have all been there. You receive a nicely colored Gantt chart displaying a project timeline that was prepared by high level executives. Problem is the people doing the work were not consulted about the timeline. Project management invites participation from the very people assigned to do the work of the project. After all who knows better how long something will take than the resources themselves. This model removes unrealistic timelines that are agreed to amongst executives and rids an environment of ‘set up to fail’ environments. Project teams respond more positively to self identified and self estimated plan activities as well as risks thereby increasing the chance of keeping a project on schedule.

Bottom line organizations need to create a healthy project management culture that provides the discipline, oversight and accountability to improve project performance while embedding some project management competency into everyone’s role.


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