InEight Global Capital Projects Outlook 2021: Optimism and Digitization

Finding the gaps in project management

Ted Brooks
March 16, 2011

The role of methodology

Methods such as Agile and PRINCE2 were designed for software development projects and to produce ‘products’, but a structure with processes and tools is needed to address all nine principle components of project management, and essentially provide legitimacy for projects in organisations and afford authority that warrants adequate governance structures within the organisation.

Proponents of PRINCE2 would argue that we already have the methodology for projects, but what is missing? Why then doesn’t it work here in Australia? Has anyone seen PRINCE2 work anywhere? Are we consigned to addressing this gap by just leaving it to the professional project managers who currently fill the gap by bringing their own brand of project management methodology and approach to projects as consultants?

Project managers today need to be equipped with more than just the technical knowledge and skills of their profession. They need to understand management and the impacts of an organisation’s culture on their projects. Project management is not just a technical competence and nor is it purely a soft skill, but there needs to be a blend of these aspects.

Does current project management education teach these? Should it? Should we add a 10th principle area to the Project Management Body of Knowledge of Stakeholder Management? Which of the current nine areas covers stakeholder management, including resource management and communication management? Does PRINCE2 cover this? Does Agile? Does anything? Is it important to projects? Do we put all of our faith in developing super teams that can achieve anything regardless of the tools or processes they have to use? Are we already doing this?

We may already have the answer. But I am sure this is not what Dr David Cleland meant when he described project team types and their use in projects. In his book Project Management Strategic Design and Implementation, he states measuring the success of projects was based on:

  • Appropriate organisational design that delineates the formal authority, responsibility, and accountability relationships among the enterprise corporate senior managers, project manager, functional manager, and work practice managers.
  • The execution of adequate strategic and project planning within the enterprise.
  • Availability of relevant and timely information that gives insight into the project status.
  • Existence of adequate management monitoring, evaluation, and control systems.
  • Use of contemporary state-of-the-art management techniques in the management of the project.
  • Existence of a supportive cultural ambience that facilitates the successful management of projects.

In organisations, some of these success measures may exist but it would be difficult to conceive of too many organisations that meet them all. The project management community could promote these measures in organisations and thus advance the development of a system that provides a framework for projects in organisations.

The PMO effect

Has the advent of the forerunner of the PMO, the project office described by John Davidson Frame, been effective in filling the gap for organisations? Some may say it has and maybe for a few areas or periods of time it has. Where there is no formalised program of work, with its own budget and clear deliverables based on a strategic goal/s, however, I have rarely seen it used to good effect. PMOs also suffer is they are continually required to justify their existence and ultimately morph into something else.

As the PA Consulting Group stated in ‘Projects Culture’, a UK survey looking at drivers of performance in project-based organisations, the method of implementation of a project management system within an organisation will be dependent on a number of organisational considerations, but generally the focus should be on what are described in the survey: looking at the drivers of performance in project-based organisations. Analysis of the survey results show four factors that differentiate successful project organisations:

  1. The degree of organisational focus on project management;
  2. The application of project-based performance management;
  3. The existence of appropriate project management systems and procedures; and
  4. The recognition of project management as an important career route.

Can we learn from organisations that have been ‘projectised’ and adapt their learnings in our project management community language and education? As the mission of the AIPM is to promote the profession of project management and education of project managers, we can also educate others in the benefits of projectisation.

We can certainly promote the profession of project management and educate project managers by developing a standard for organisations that have Cleland’s success measures and the PA Consulting survey’s performance factors focus, and include Frame’s project office functions. The project management community needs to continue this debate and strive to understand what is required to continually improve the capability of organisations to carry out projects.

Author avatar
Ted Brooks
Ted Brooks, BA (Soc) Post Grad PM, is a project management consultant with 20 years experience working on projects in organisations involving systems and workplace changes and IT projects and building infrastructure projects.
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