“This project can basically manage itself.” Words any seasoned project manager know will not begin to scratch the surface of the complexity most projects bring to the table.
By Scott Keeney, PMP
If different project managers in an organization follow their own personal processes or worse, no processes at all, projects can get out of control very quickly. However, with the correct processes in place, an effective project manager can provide planning and insights that will help provide a structured, consistent approach to project execution within an organization. The following paragraphs will explore the overhaul in project management processes that one of our clients underwent to mitigate those pain points.
When asked what their biggest pain points were, nearly all of the 26 project managers within their Project Management Office (PMO) at the time said that there were inconsistent or simply no processes in place that they could rely on to execute projects. Inconsistent tools, no firm direction on required documents, no or inconsistent document repositories, inconsistent risk processes, inconsistent communication processes. We embarked on a five-month journey to correct these issues.
We started by identifying best practices within the field of project management and relied heavily on PMI’s Project Management Professional (PMP)® training to integrate a tried and true methodology that we could quickly and effectively implement. We also identified several key individuals who were both intimately familiar with these practices and knew how our client had worked up until then to make sure we were taking cultural and tribal considerations into account when building this process. This small group became the team that led this process build. A key goal in selecting the members of this team was to shine a light on as many potential pitfalls as possible to give this process the best chance of success while leveraging the knowledge this group had of how our client operates to help achieve that. The first output of this team was the creation of a PMO Playbook that provided both a high-level overview of the end-to-end processes of project execution as well as detailed sections on each area from project approval to project closure, based on PMI methodologies.
To supplement the Playbook, we also created comprehensive set of templates for all project documents a project manager might need to use during a project and a standalone SharePoint site to both store the templates and instruct project managers to use as a document repository to maintain configuration management and promote lessons learned for future project reference. Lastly during this stage of the process building, we created a Tailored Checklist that took into account project size and functional area. Based on those criteria, the Tailored Checklist would recommend the documents a project manager would likely need to execute their project and provide a central document to track the completion of those documents as the project moves through its lifecycle.
Once we were comfortable with the Playbook, the templates, and the Tailored Checklist, we began socializing this process to members of the organization for feedback and input. We presented to users, functional areas, brands, senior leadership, and others and made the necessary changes to the process or documents based on their input. This again, was meant to identify as many unknowns as possible so that we could correct them before going live with the process.
The last piece of the puzzle was to incorporate a structured continuous improvement process to observe how the process was working and collect suggestions and recommendations from the users to improve it. A cadence of every six months was decided on to ensure no knee-jerk reactions were made to the process and that changes were made thoughtfully and methodically.
Once these pieces were all finished, we scheduled a weeklong training for project managers within the organization to take a detailed tour of the process and allow them to ask any questions or bring up any concerns they might have with this process. The training was received extremely well, and the process is currently in-flight. We have continued to make small improvements, namely to the tools used, and we are in the process of standing up monthly project status reviews to ensure project managers are using the process as intended. Feedback from senior leadership has been positive and we have been approached by several functional areas and brands across our client that are interested in adopting this process.
Scott Keeney, PMP, is a Principal Associate in our Program Management practice.
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