What is Project Management Excellence?
PM Excellence is a way of doing things.
An organisation that demonstrates a culture of PM Excellence is one that knows how to deliver projects. It has pragmatic processes, standards and templates in place. The project managers are aware of these standards and apply them appropriately. They have clear career options, and they are part of a community. The organisation has quality mechanisms in place that provide continuous improvement for the projects, the processes, and the people.
An organisation that invests appropriately in PM Excellence is one that delivers projects better.
Standards – “How we do things around here”
The cycle starts by establishing Standards. This is not as simple as adopting a recognised methodology (Prince2, APM, PMI, ITIL, Agile, etc), although one or more may be part of the solution. Instead it is about defining how project management works in practice in this specific organisation.
What are the local rules of the game? What are the governance processes? How do you get budget? What are the mandatory reporting requirements? And so on. Standards may include:
- PM Methodology: the overall organisation-specific project management process
- PM Handbook: the published repository of best-practice information, more likely to be an on-line resource than a physical book
- PM Workbook: the day-to-day tooling used to manage projects
- Templates and Tools: a tailored toolkit comprising mandatory, optional and best-practice components
Standards need to be communicated to the project management community, which leads to…
Development – “A Culture of PM Excellence”
It can be a lonely existence as a project manager, working with project teams, but often as a solo operator with little peer support. Building a project management community doesn’t happen by accident. Developing top project managers needs:
- Training: in traditional PM skills as well as people-management or “soft” skills
- Accreditation: possibly using an industry-standard scheme, or by developing an in-house scheme tailored to the needs of the organisation
- Coaching and Mentoring: enabling project managers to achieve their full potential
- Career Structure: providing choices within project management and beyond
- Recognition Scheme: rewarding the highest levels of dedication and application
- Newsletters: reinforcing the community with news and best practice reminders
- Events: sharing best practice and having fun through conferences, seminars and webinars
Next, the projects and project managers need an appropriate regime of monitoring…
Quality – “Continuous Improvement”
The delivery of successful projects is the ultimate objective. This is what the Standards and Development are driving towards. A Quality approach is needed that monitors the projects and the project managers through mechanisms such as:
- Project Health Checks: a helpful and supportive approach to reviewing projects
- Facilitated Workshops: for example using an external facilitator to conduct a risk review, so as to challenge the assumptions that will build up in any project
- Lessons Learnt Reviews: which always benefit from an independent facilitator, liberating the project manager to be open and constructive with their views
These activities act in the short-term to improve the success of individual projects, and in the long-term by identifying improvement opportunities for Standards and Development, thus forming a virtuous circle.
Along the journey, there are many benefits to be gained:
- Developing a community of practice improves the organisational DNA. “Super-hero” PMs are all very well, but it is better to build knowledge and experience into the organisation.
- Project managers that have a clear development and career path are likely to deliver more, to be more motivated, and to be more loyal to the organisation.
- By implementing a consistent way of managing projects, senior stakeholders know what to expect, and they know what is expected of them.
Project Management Excellence is ultimately about doing projects better.