14 Jun
How to significantly optimize the project management in the organization?

Many organizations, in fact most organizations, suffer from inefficiency in projects. Projects drag on, cost more than planned, and sometimes don't even bring the expected result. In order for the project to succeed and meet its goals, it is managed by steering committees and with a high level of management involvement, while other projects that do not receive this attention are delayed and tangled up. 

The formal statistics in the field also show that despite the significant progress in terms of work methods, tools and technologies, most projects (more than 70%) still do not meet the goals as defined at the beginning, and that a very low percentage of companies in the world (only 2.5%) report overall success in managing their projects. Most of them have the (justified) feeling that there is still much to improve in order to work optimally, efficiently and effectively. 

So why is this the case, and more importantly - is it destiny or is there anything that can be done to change it? (Spoiler - there is a lot to do, and it doesn't have to be complicated) 

Let's start with the first part - why this is the case. 

Although much progress has been made in the field of project management in terms of tools and technology, the simple truth is that most problems start from the very basics, long before any tool can help. Best project management requires three permanent and stable foundations that must exist:    

And these are influenced by another significant parameter, namely - the organizational structure. 

Challenges in basic project management  foundations:

The first element - the project management process should be well defined and clear to everyone, only that in many cases it is obscured, not properly defined and completely dependent on the experience and ability of the project manager. Although it is very important to leave freedom of action and room for action to the project manager, the framework of the process, especially in a complex organization, must be defined. The project manager should not find himself/herself inventing the wheel while moving and while fighting the various interests. 

For example, one of the most important parts of the process to which special attention should be paid is the management of the project scope. How to keep the scope prioritized? How to allow changes on the one hand but control on the other? How to agree on the depth of execution? The less defined this process is, the greater the abuse of scope during the project. 

This happens mainly for two reasons - one reason is the customer's appetite and desire to include more "and ensure coverage" vs the difficulty in prioritizing, and the second reason is the desire of the project teams to provide a perfect, complete, sophisticated solution, sometimes too much. In the field, many times those who manage the scope are the professional people, less experienced in managing, prioritizing, and building the right scope, and so it happens that the amount of work increases, even if apparently no requirements have been added. 

Added to this is the second element that is not properly implemented - the lack of quality data and metrics in real time, and sometimes not at all. Despite the multitude of tools in the field, there is still a significant lack of available and quality data and information while carrying out the project. 54% of the companies report that they do not have data and metrics on the projects in real time. This lack causes the organization to be "blind" trying to navigate project management. Significant problems are discovered too late, it is difficult to understand what the situation is, and it is even more difficult to look ahead. 

And finally, in very few organizations, despite the dissatisfaction with the situation, there is a realization of the third element - a built-in improvement mechanism, a mechanism that enables learning, drawing conclusions, looking at the data and understanding where the bottlenecks are, formulating appropriate solutions and changes, and if it does not exist, there is no force driving the improvement. Even if the problems are prominent, their root cause is not always clear, and in any case a mechanism is needed to turn them into opportunities for improvement. 

These are the common problems in implementing the basis for success in project management, and as mentioned, the effect of the organizational structure is also added to this. For example, a matrix organization, as is still very common, is less project-oriented and causes distance and complex interaction between the project participants and the various teams, therefore it makes it difficult to create an agile and efficient process. The more "layers" of a matrix are involved in the project team, and the more people are engaged in a higher number of projects at the same time, the more difficult it will be for the team to effectively do what is needed. Teams wait for each other, and find it difficult to get the answer in time and with the necessary level of attention. 

At the same time, it should be remembered that the organizational structure is a more complex subject for change, and not always the only consideration is the efficiency of the projects, therefore it is better to formulate a healthy and efficient project management process first of all. 

Building the framework:

A good implementation of a process-indicators- and an improvement mechanism will allow a significant improvement in results even when the organizational structure is challenging. 

The implementation itself is often simple and includes 1. Definitions of processes, metrics and data 2. An implementation framework that includes meetings, or forums where improvements and changes, tools and control will be applied. These are relatively simple changes to implement and mainly require decision making, and senior management's commitment to the issue. But it must be remembered that such an application requires discipline, perseverance, and some kind of effort. Although this effort has significant results and outputs, it is difficult to maintain it if maximum commitment is not observed from the top (management) to the last of the teams. 

The middle management in some cases may initially see it as a waste of time, but as we know very well - what is not measured, is not done. The internalization of this simple truth can in itself boost the organization's performance in a very significant way and allow it to understand where its problems are today. 

How do you do that ? 

Five basic steps: 

1. Defining a clear work process for managing the project, including simplifying the main points of conflict, for example: o Defining how to prioritize content and design/discovery meetings o Defining how the customer is involved in the process Also if not defined: possible base methodologies and project life cycle, the initiation process, approvals, recruitments, frequency and the manner of reporting to management.

 2. Defining indicators and data for managing the process, for example: performance and progress indicators, quality indicators. These indicators should be based on real-time reporting from the field (rather than centralized periodic reporting) and flow from the bottom up to the management level on a regular basis.

 3. Setting up permanent forum(s) for retrospective and examination of improvement measures

 4. Optional (but recommended) - choosing a suitable tool for managing the process and metrics

 5. Management of the assimilation process with the involvement of all levels in the organization, including data examination, adjustment and change if necessary.

In addition, it is possible to take additional steps and address the other two main challenges - Prioritizing scope, and simplifying the solutions are wisdom that must be learned and taught to the teams, and sometimes also guide how to share the decision-making on this topic with the more experienced team members and do joint thinking. 

Changing the organizational structure to a project or business structure (for example organizational agile - as quite a few organizations are starting to try to do) is often complex and requires a lot of considerations and a lot of effort. But you can also learn from more flexible methods that focus on easier and more specific solutions such as the creation of ad-hoc project teams, such as a "task team". 

In conclusion, there is a great deal to be done in order to improve project management and bring about a significant change in results, and although it involves investing attention and effort, the process is relatively simple and practical, and the results are noticeable, usually in an immediate range. Those who invest in building management mechanisms, will benefit. These mechanisms can be more flexible, or less, depending on the need, but they should comply with the basic principles as described - the clarity of the processes, regular use of indicators and data, and a built-in mechanism for continuous improvement.

 Good Luck ! 

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