Project Investments Are Whole-System Efforts and All Levels Must Play Their Parts

There’s been a good deal of conversation on LinkedIn discussion groups regarding some of my recent blogs. Many good comments have come in the Managing Benefits group. I strongly recommend that group for those who feel, as I do, that too often projects do not generate the intended benefits.

Whose fault is it that project effort is so often wasted?

  1.  Is it due to project managers who care only about delivering a product or service on time and on budget?
  2. Or is senior management, either the sponsor/customer or other senior managers, to blame for not performing their roles adequately?
    • For failing to itemize the specific desired benefits?
    • For not ensuring the product scope will deliver those benefits?
    • For omitting the necessary clauses and language in a contract that would provide incentive to the contractor to ensure customer value?
    • For failing to oversee the project manager in the project team to deliver the most beneficial product?
    • Or perhaps for setting impossible goals, guaranteeing that the team will engage in a “death march” project and take risks that ultimately lead to poor quality and/or costly and delaying rework?
  3. Or is it the fault of the PMO, that artifact that new executives like to create and then staff with inexperienced personnel whose main role often seems to be to encumber project managers with administrivia, and which will be disbanded as soon as the next cost-cutting regime takes charge? (Please don’t misunderstand: I absolutely support the establishment of competent PMOs that add genuine value – it’s just that, in my experience, such institutions are rare.

The answer, of course, is that all of the above are to blame! Management of projects is a whole-system function – ignorance or incompetence in any part will result in the dysfunction of the entire enterprise. And that means that all levels of the organization, from executives to program managers to project managers to team members to the PMO to contracts to finance to HR… all have a role to play in making projects more beneficial.
This starts with unanimous recognition that ALL projects are investments. It continues through each of those levels and functions needing to understand certain fundamentals of project management (like why the critical path and critical path drag are so important!). And it ultimately requires that each of those roles and functions perform their jobs in supporting those project investments, and be critiqued and measured in terms of their value-added (or value-subtracted!).

I returned from vacation yesterday (which explains why there haven’t been any new blog articles during the past week). But over the next few weeks, my intention is to delve deeper into the process of how those management levels and departments must perform their roles in support of projects. Specific topics, in no particular order, will include:

  • The project within the program.
  • The nature and importance of enabler projects.
  • The value/cost of time on enabler projects.
  • The value breakdown structure (VBS).
  • The true cost of activities, and those with negative value-added.
  • The responsibilities of a PMO that wants to add value.
  • The difference between resources on and off the critical path.
  • The pernicious effects of contracts which don’t align customer and contractor benefits.

Do these topics sound interesting to you? If so, I hope you’ll come and read these, and leave some comments.

Fraternally in project management,

Steve the Bajan

2 thoughts on “Project Investments Are Whole-System Efforts and All Levels Must Play Their Parts

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