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Project management has become a key skill in these times of great change. However there is a difference between employing a few good project managers and building a complete project management competency for the whole organisation. Good project managers can battle against all odds and still deliver, but at great cost to individuals. Projects in organisations which embrace and support project management are delivered with less drama and disruption.

I was assigned to be the change agent for improving project management in a business unit.

I used a classic change management model. I developed a high-level vision, secured the buy-in of the executive team then set up a stakeholder group. This group included sales and account management, procurement and finance people, as well as project managers and professional services leaders. At the time there were two entirely different delivery groups with their own distinct and different project management approaches, the first task was to get everyone to buy into the advantages of a single common project management framework.

The stakeholder group developed goals and objectives. To meet them we developed outline programs, and then selected the critical and quick payback projects, such as:

  • Website portal for access to processes, tools, project stories, etc
  • Practitioners’ career framework, training requirements and professional qualification.
  • Work on corporate business processes to ensure effective involvement of project managers.
  • Complete listing of projects and contacts.
  • Scheduled reviews of projects by executives and stakeholders.

The program progressed with some good wins against the objectives, but what was more important was the change in culture. The status, importance and effectiveness of project management rose, worthwhile project reviews were started, which supported Project Managers instead of hounding them. There emerged a consistency of approach enabling a consensus on a new organisational structure for project management, under which a new Program Management Office (PMO) would be set up to carry on the work of the change team.

Line managers were able to assume responsibility for setting up the PMO because the framework and operational processes and procedures had been defined and would reinforce the required behaviour.

The changes in behaviour happened by involving the right leaders and professionals in the journey, by the time we reached what would have been considered a formal handover point it had already happened. Good line managers will pick up the ball and run as soon as they know the answers, the problem is to keep everything synchronised so that all that needs doing gets done.

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