Thought Leadership - Sharing insights

November 26, 2017

Project Management – the unsung hero

We define project management as the planning, organisation and then management of the resources required to complete a specific task.

Projects are different to business-as-usual activities. They require people to come together temporarily to focus on specific project objectives. This group of people may be recruited from disparate parts of the business and may be at very different levels in the organisation.

We embark on many projects where insufficient consideration has been given by the client not just on how the project is going to be delivered but also the impact on the organisation’s resources (people and budgets). This applies to the project delivery phase as much as it does to the post project implementation/embedding phase.

Everyone recognises that the responsiveness and timeliness of a project team is key. However, effective teamwork is also an essential ingredient when looking to deliver successful projects. Effective teamwork is greatly enhanced by the inclusion of a project management role – but this is often overlooked.

We consider project management to be both a skill and an art. In our view a project is deemed to be a success if it achieves its objectives, within an agreed timescale and budget. We believe key elements of good project management are:

  • leading and motivating the project team
  • managing the risks, issues and changes on the project
  • monitoring progress against plan
  • maintaining regular communication with stakeholders
  • closing the project when appropriate.

I was reminded of the Harvard Business Review video I had watched recently which summarised the pinch points in most projects, however big or small.

The five key findings are detailed below:

Project Execution – Failure to execute is not always about alignment. Leaders believe where there is failure it is about monitoring and micromanaging this outcome. This in turn leads to team frustration, as workers are being continually monitored and feeling threatened.

  • The solution is to co-ordinate the cross-business instances with better systems to allow greater creative thinking.

The Plan – Sticking to the plan can often lead to failure. The plan can never anticipate every event. The team needs to remain agile to respond to the unforeseen.

  • The solution is to keep re-allocating resources and not to chase every opportunity.

The Corporate Strategy – Only 50% of c-suite executives understand how the corporate strategy fits together. According to the Harvard Business Review only 54% of the c-suite understand their corporate strategy. Only 32% of junior managers and 16% of team leaders understand what the organisation wants to achieve.

  • The solution: It’s not about the volume of communication but the clarity of communication. This is one of the few times where ‘less is more’.

Targets – By focusing too much on hitting the numbers which leads to stagnation, the organisation is rewarding the wrong behaviours. Hitting targets leads to conservatism across the organisation and encourages a lack of entrepreneurial spirit.

  • The solution: The organisation should learn to reward behaviours such as execution, ambition, agility, experimentation and collaboration.

Leadership – Middle managers don’t learn to lead in a top-down organisation.

  • The solution: Execution should be driven from the Middle Managers with guidance from the top.

For us, this Harvard model is too prescriptive in its desire to be free flowing and life doesn’t work like that. Perfection is a rare commodity, best practice is a fickle character and people change behaviour daily.

We asked our clients for their feedback on the Harvard points. Our clients said:

  1. They believe any project has its own personality
  2. Their experience says that one size does not fit all
  3. They know that perfection is found when an experienced client side project team and an experienced project team, connect
  4. They know that best practice will be embraced by all
  5. They know that project teams include various personalities motivated by different behaviours (true of any team, not just project teams).

We simply believe success is driven by great decisions taken by those who have a clear framework (for guidance only).

How Big River Solutions can help

Big River Solutions can bridge any gaps. We are able to provide a resource that supports your projects through day-to-day management, ensuring conclusion is on brief, on budget and on time.

Big River Solutions has a reputation for leading and delivering projects that exceed expectations. We enhance the project by providing experts who apply their knowledge of processes, methods, skills and experience to achieve the project objectives. But we believe that the best project management is about more than just the process. Our project managers are highly skilled people managers, conversant in the methodologies of forming and generating output from high performing teams.

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