The success of large and complex projects does not depend solely on the Project Manager nor the project team, but is established well before any project activities have started. In this post I would like to share 3 ways of educating and engaging the executives.
1. Create a check list for Senior Managers and make sure is reviewed and action prior to starting a complex project
In 1994 the UK House of Commons identified 41 key issues and concerns that must be addressed before project initiation. These 41 issues may be grouped into 12 Key Areas as a checklist for senior manager review and action prior to starting a complex project. (Reference: UK House of Commons Public Account – First Report, Series 1999 – 2000, Improving the Delivery of Government IT Projects)
Large Project Issues Checklist for Senior Managers
- Ensure analysing and understanding the implications of introducing new systems for business and customers.
- Consider carefully the scale and complexity of projects to assess whether they are achievable
- Delays in implementing projects place them at risk of being overtaken by technological change
- Make sure project specifications take into account the business needs of the organization and the requirements of users
- Senior managers have a crucial role to play in championing products, procedures, services, and systems
- The development of high-quality project management skills within the organization is essential
- Paying attention to the management of risks and have contingency plans is essential
- Relations between customer and suppliers have a crucial effect on the success of the project
- Agreements between customers and suppliers have been set out clearly
- Review the success of projects as soon as possible so that lessons can be fed back into consideration of later projects
- Sufficient time and resources spent on ensuring that staff know how to use delivered products, services, and systems. And proper consideration given to the possible effect the new products, services, or systems may have on productivity in the period following implementation
- Learning from past mistakes is crucial
2. Make sure Business Project Portfolio and Project Management Portfolio are balanced
Organizations select projects based on their business objectives and needs. Treacy and Wiersema (HBR, Jan-Feb, 1993: The Treacy & Wiersema Value-Discipline Model looks at 3 different areas or “value disciplines” in which an enterprise can focus: Operating Excellence; Product Leadership; and Customer Intimacy) identified three categories of projects:
- New Product (NP)
- Customer Value (CV) products or services focusing on meeting customer needs
- Operational Value (OV) based products and services focusing on low cost, dependability, and no frills.
Both a Business Portfolio of Projects and Project Management Portfolio can be presented in many ways. An example of such representation is shown below based on the organizations Capability (staffing, skills, available systems and/or supporting tools) and perceived Requirements Stability.
|Project management Portfolio|
Unfortunately, different people select projects and different manage them. Therefore, senior managers and project managers must combine their perspectives to minimize project troubles and reduce potential failures. The Integrated Portfolio - below, combines the two perspectives: strategic need and requirements/capabilities management. So if your organisation has more projects in the lower right quadrant might be at more risk than one with projects in the upper left.
Although defining and managing the integrated portfolio of projects falls within the remit of executives and this is not something the individual project manager or project team can or should do, it’s crucial that both the project team and executive management have the same perception of the position of the project!
3. Conduct a brief maturity assessment
In many cases the root cause of trouble can be attributed to the organization’s inability to perform at the needed level - maturity. There are a few maturity models available (
SEI’s Capability Maturity Model Integrated;
Kerzner’s Project Management Maturity Model; PMI’s OPM3). Each model has as its objective the
assessment of an organization’s strengths and weaknesses relative to some
series of benchmarked key performance metrics. This again should be done at
executive level, although it is advised every project manager to conduct a basic
maturity assessment once they have received their project and then use
the results in risk management process.