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In our ever-changing business landscape, more and more organizations are carrying out projects that were once incidental to overall business operations have become fundamental to their operation, problem solving and innovation. Unfortunately, most organizations don’t master the art and science of effective project management, and it costs them dearly.
A 2020 report of the Project Management Institute found that sub-par project management processes account for 11% of wasted company resources. And companies that don’t develop project management as an organizational practice report 67% higher failure rates.
Related: 10 Project Management Hacks That Will Help New Project Managers Succeed
It’s clear that companies need to start prioritizing project management, but what does ineffective project management look like? And how can leaders improve project management?
The misadventures of project management explained
To answer these questions, let’s describe the fundamentals of project management: people, processes, tools, and governance. When thinking about what’s holding a project back from happening, you need to look at these ingredients together.
For example, do you lack best practices for scheduling, budgeting, managing requirements, or realizing benefits? What do your standards look like? Do you lack effective tools, processes or methodologies? Does poor leadership create bottlenecks around communication? Do you have any gaps in your current governance model? These barriers can prevent you from consistently delivering project results.
Related: 5 Project Management Mistakes That Can Hurt Your Business
You also lose the opportunity to perform a mission that could sustain your business. Presumably, your project was aimed at solving a problem. How much will it cost you not to solve this problem ? Will it cut off new revenue streams for your business?
Companies that try to stick to the status quo don’t just tread water, they actively sink.
Set up your projects for success
Successful project management could be the difference between a thriving business and a struggling startup. To generate more value through project-based work, start with these steps.
1. Embrace change management
Investing in project management is a recognition that change (cultural or otherwise) is necessary. When change is something a company welcomes and enables, project management prospects can thrive.
However, change is never easy. The more structure you can create around the process, the better off you will be. For its 2020 edition of “Change Management Best PracticesProsci asked more than 8,000 change management leaders to identify the key factors contributing to a strong initiative. Resoundingly, respondents pointed to a deliberate and clear approach as an essential piece of the puzzle – and for good reason.
Structure helps you stay on track, allowing you to allocate enough time for meaningful activities while giving you the opportunity to recognize and address gaps along the way. A formal structure also allows for better scalability, and Prosci determined that leaders who use a structured methodology are 33% more likely to execute effectively.
When creating the structure around change management, you need to define your goals, develop a plan to achieve those goals (more on that in a minute), build a dedicated change management team, and establish a monitoring process to track your progress. Doing these four things will set the stage for better project management.
Related: 6 points on an entrepreneur’s journey to change management
2. Build a roadmap
Once you have a structure in place and know where you would like to go, you need to start the process of deciding how you will get there. In other words, you must develop a roadmap.
At Project Assistants, we have developed the Vision, Implement, Adopt (VIA) methodology to drive organizational improvement through project-based work. When I work with our clients to develop a roadmap, I first determine what tactical initiatives will be needed to achieve their organizational vision. For each initiative, I develop/create a project charter, which is a concise document that describes the project in its entirety (e.g. goals, stakeholders, project delivery logistics).
Then, I prioritize and sequence these initiatives to determine the order in which they should be carried out. At the end of this process, our customers will have their roadmap, which they will implement and adopt enterprise-wide.
The VIA methodology is essential for all kinds of organizational improvements. For example, a large pharmacy chain called on us to review its risk management. We accompanied the client throughout this process with the VIA methodology by tracing their objectives, compiling the charter and designing a path. This action plan helped to keep the initiative on track and to have a clear vision of the desired outcome.
3. Trust the process
When you’re working on a high-stakes project, emotions can run high. It’s easy for anxiety to skyrocket when you receive a large change order. But the project management process is just that – a process. When you understood What project management is and Why that’s how you can trust this process.
For example, your roadmap is an invaluable tool. But as you map out your plans, develop tactical initiatives, and complete parts of your projects, there’s a good chance Something will have changed (e.g. the economy has fluctuated, technology is advanced, range drift has set in). This is the nature of our world today. That’s why you need to be armed with a continuous adoption strategy so you can dance and weave as you go.
Improving your project portfolio management (PPM) will also help you respond to continuous change. Most organizations review their project list once a year, but that’s a short-sighted approach that invites trouble. PPM involves periodically outlining the benefits of different projects and selecting those with the greatest benefits. You can then kill projects that don’t serve your overall mission and pursue those that will propel your business forward.
Projects are drivers of change and innovation in modern business, but very few organizations know how to effectively manage these projects, which hurts their chances of long-term survival. Follow the previous three steps to execute projects and it will move your business forward and keep you ahead of your competitors.