Leadership is the most critical priority for an effective enterprise PM discipline. Leadership must be present at all levels of the enterprise; this priority extends to executive management, project sponsors, program managers, project managers, operating management, project team members, and even the customer. If there is a weakness in leadership at any of these levels of a project, there is an increased risk for project delays, cost over-runs, deliverable shortfalls, or a complete project failure: project canceled. Most of the publications available on the subject of Project Management to date seem to be focused on process or methodology. I feel that process or methodology is important to the PM discipline, but I feel it is less important than these other priorities.
Effective leaders have an inherent ability to produce desired results in a very effective manner, no matter which position in the enterprise they hold. These leaders know how to identify weakness, how to take action, and how to continually follow up on the action they’ve taken to ensure they achieve the results they desire. They are both strategists and executors, and they know the difference between the two.
Projects of any type and size have several things in common, and one of them is that they need resources to be completed. Resources include, for example, labor, plant and equipment, office supplies, raw materials, manufacturing components, design services, research and development, consulting, software applications and information technology hardware, external support services, and legal support. Once you have the leadership for a project, it must then be staffed and resourced in order to move forward. Obviously, if there are no resources, the project does not have much of a chance for success, does it? It is up to the leadership to formulate the project plan, which should outline the objective, define the deliverables and the duration, estimate the cost, identify the activities to be accomplished, categorize the resources needed, and estimate the return on investment (ROI) of the project. This information is used by executive management for project evaluation and approval or disapproval.
Priority 3- Communication
Most publications written about the Project Management discipline list communications as a very critical factor in the success of a project, and I agree. Some surveys show that poor project communication accounts for approximately 50%-60% of project failures. Proper communication takes time, it takes discipline, and it takes the establishment of rules and standards for the project team, including the sponsors and customers. Communication comes in two flavors, formal and informal. All information that is communicated, formal or informal, should have 3 key attributes; timely, accurate and relevant.
Priority 4- Accountability
Accountability has different meanings to different people, but the most accepted understanding is that someone will be answerable to others for their actions. In many PM disciplines, there are adequate levels of documented responsibility for a project, but there is often a severe lack of “accountability” within the project. I was once told by a PM that “I have never missed a due date”. After sitting in on a few project status meetings, it became clear to me that the PM had a pattern of changing the due dates on the tasks, without challenge. That is an example of a lack of accountability. No matter what our role or responsibility, we should be held accountable for our actions. An effective PM discipline must include a process for handling accountability. I believe that responsibility and accountability are attached at the hip; they are a matched set of attributes found in every role within the enterprise and definitely within the PM discipline.
Emphasizing responsibility and accountability is a critical factor for having an effective PM discipline. Responsibility is a matter of understanding the what, when, where, how and how much a position is obligated to manage within the enterprise. Responsibilities are the parameters for the jurisdiction of a given position within the project; whether a PM or team member, everyone has responsibilities. Accountability means that each participant in the project knows what their responsibilities are and that they must answer for their actions taken while performing these responsibilities.
There are libraries full of publications defining PM processes, of which there are many. Our objective here is to outline the key factors that an effective PM discipline will contain. Each enterprise will deploy the method and level of sophistication that they feel works best for the types of projects they sponsor, and the capabilities of their PM team personnel. Our key formula for a successful project is that we maintain a balance between the project deliverable, the project cost and the project duration in comparison to the project plan — while meeting the sponsor’s (customer’s) expectations. It is the process that provides the structure of the project life cycle defined as Initiating, Planning, Execution, Monitoring/Controlling and Closing. Each organization has their own process or structure that they are comfortable with for their projects, but in one form or another, they should include these 5 components.
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