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Critical to success: effectively managing projects.

While companies regard projects or initiates as a viable means to improve their business, most have an incomplete understanding of the changes involved in implementing projects and what it takes to successfully mange them.

There are many war stories about how different initiative progressed -- first with uniformed optimism, then uniformed pessimism and finally ending with informed pessimism. The invariable shortfalls often leave a residue which persist in an organization, interfering with its willingness to take advantage of future improvement opportunities.

Organization need to complete the necessary front-end planning and development before starting on a project. Too, often companies launch initiatives without taking the time plan them properly, with project teams having little understanding of the specific work plans and deliverables necessary to complete the project. This approach often overlooks team-member orientation, skills assessment and training. This results in high stress for all involved and frequently, in the failure to achieve the full benefits originally expected. In some cases, the project is no even completed.

Effectively managing projects and the dynamics of change is critical to success

The challenge for many organization is what their people are functionally competent, they have had little, if any, experience managing major. Many team managers are often getting their first exposure to project management when they join a change initiative. These individuals need to be trained before the project is launched. For example, if project managers are given the responsibility for coming up with a work plan when they have not yet learned how to develop one, the time and resources required to complete it can be inordinate. Worse still, the plan can be incomplete, misdirected or ineffectively communicated. This can result in no plan being followed and the project being delayed, over budget or successful.

In order to successfully implement a project and provide guidance to project teams, senior management needs to be able to identify risk and opportunities in a project work plan and make decisions along the way as deviations, setbacks and revisions to the project occur. Project teams must also have an understanding of the extent of change facing their organization, as well as its readiness for change and reflect them in their work plans.

Complete reengineering first, then develop supporting system

Many projects that have the potential to signify transform the organization involve business process reengineering and establishing computer system. Organization should complete the reengineering first before developing supporting system unless their process will be dictated by the software functionality. Failure to do this can result in frustration and loss opportunity

Initiatives which have to be implemented over multiple sites need clearly defined process, systems, policies and procedures so the project can be executed consistently at each location.

Project managers should partner with local management to ensure that the appropriate mix o\f corporate and locally defined process is achieved. Senior management, through an executive steering committee, as well as those at local sites, must play an active role in supporting this activity which frequently involves negotiations across traditional boundaries.

While it is important for each team member to have substantial knowledge and experience in their specific functional area, it is equally important that they have positive attitudes related to being an effective team player.

Progress and status reporting must reflect project priorities

Most projects require a progress status report in order to maintain focus on the overall critical path. It enables issues which amy derail or diminish the success of the projects on time, within budget and with the desired outcome. Organizations should also develop ways to resolve issues which may emerge during the course of the project min order to keep the project moving.

Many organization make the mistake of communicating about the project in the form of generalized message which are cascade down through the organization. While these broad brush communications from a useful function in raising awareness, it does not take full advantage of using communications as an effective toll to advance the projects. Project communications should be designed with milestones in mind and should be based on five key objectives: to raise awareness, to solicit input, to obtain acceptance and understanding of the changes involved, to state direction and to report status.

Prior to beginning a project, organizations should complete as assessment of the readiness for change of the entire organization as well as of the project team. This will provide valuable input to the development of the communications plan.

Success requires a proactive focus stained, committed effort

Planning and manging initiatives require focus and sustained, committed effort. May organizations with failed, partially completed, or over budget projects underestimate the level of effort required to launch, manage and complete an initiative.

Rigorous planning and team development done immediately before the launch of a project are critical to success. If training is done too early, teams will lose their edge before the project starts. If planning is not done adequately, teams, will be forced to operate in a reactive mode to problems mode to problems which emerge after the project is underway - with the end result being a compromised initiative.

Dedicated projects or initiatives enable an organization to focus its efforts on achieving the highest potential for improving its business. Organizations that recognize the necessary attribute required to successfully mange and complete projects will continue to distance themselves from their competitors.

Bill Pardu is a management consultant with A.T. Kearny in Toronto, Ontario.
COPYRIGHT 1996 Canadian Institute of Management
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1996 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:business planning and management
Author:Pardu, Bill
Publication:Canadian Manager
Date:Jun 22, 1996
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