1- SHAUKAT AZIZ VISITS AMERICA.
2- WHERE DO WE GO WRONG IN MANAGING PROJECTS?
3- REVIVAL OF SICK UNITS.
4- TIME TO RESTRAIN THE AUTO SPECULATORS.
5- EDIBLE OIL CROPS.
6- SIGNIFICANCE OF SILVER FIBER IN FOREIGN EXCHANGE.

 

WHERE DO WE GO WRONG IN MANAGING PROJECTS?

 

Organizations must first trust their project managers and make them fully accountable for the project outcome

 

By SHEIKH NISAR AHMED - CEO MSCL
Oct 07 - 13, 2002

 

Recently I was invited to speak to the management team of an important public sector organization in Karachi. The topic was "Project Management Concepts". Even before I started my presentation I was asked to skip all my charts discussing the basic concept of the project management by a senior person in the audience because he thought that his organization is well aware of these concepts. During the course of my presentation based on questions asked it was not difficult for me to assess their project management skills and knowledge. While skills were almost nil knowledge was limited to Gantt charts and project scheduling.

This incident motivated me to continue writing on this subject. This article is second of the series. Earlier my article on "Managing Project Based Business" has already been published in several publications. This is second of the series.

Let's get straight to the point; project management by form filling or Gantt Charting is not an effective way of managing projects. These days many organizations and individual's whole project management strategy revolves around becoming slaves to a methodology. Don't get me wrong, there are many very good methodologies out there and they all have their part in project management.

If you give a complete novice a set of project management templates and ask him to complete them does he suddenly become a full-fledged project manager? Of course not, he would lack the people and interpersonal skills required to succeed for a start. So why is it that so many organizations think introducing a methodology will solve all their problems? In my experience there is no silver bullet solution, just solutions that help the project manager to do his job better.

My worst experiences have been with organizations that stick blindly to the methodology regardless of whether it adds value. This is specially true for Pakistani Units of large multinational corporations. The form invariably gets filed away and never looked at again. It is important that methodologies are customized and adopted to suit project type and organizational culture while ensuring success on projects.

The other worst experiences have been large public sector organizations in Pakistan where everyone thinks that no one else can do job better than him/her self. Any new concept or idea is resented and people are more interested in maintaining status quo, such organizations are worst place to initiate any project resulting in change.

The project management pressures lead to many methodologies being perceived as needlessly bureaucratic, which, when used appropriately they're not. I'm a great advocate of starting projects well, spending time on the planning phase, defining the scope, assessing the risks and getting stakeholder buy-in. Here the typical project brief adds a great deal of value in terms of establishing clarity in the stakeholders' minds as to what the project will and won't deliver. There lies the important issue; can you demonstrate a clear benefit of having a particular document or process?

Organizations must first trust their project managers and make them fully accountable for the project outcome. The project manager must use his discretion, deciding on a project by project basis, what is and isn't appropriate from any methodology they use. If any element of the methodology has no value then don't do it but be prepared to backup your decision with a well thought out reason why.

Methodologies are a framework in which to work not a solution to project management. Spend time to find out what works for you and your organization, discard what doesn't and modify what's left to better fulfil your needs. That way you will avoid adding unnecessary overhead to projects and having your preferred methodology dismissed as needlessly bureaucratic.

Here are some of the signs that may indicate your current methodology isn't working.

Customers complain about form filling
Project managers do not follow the process
Project management cost is disproportionate compared with the total cost of the project
Completing all the documents and steps in the methodology is a key measure of success
Following process is valued more highly than project success
Non seriousness in project review meetings

Organizations should ensure that project managers aren't overburdened with process that doesn't add value, just for the sake of adhering to a certain methodology. If your project managers are required to fill in forms, get them signed in triplicate and wait a month for approval to start a project, then you're preventing your organization from becoming an effective projectised organization.