The reliance on project director/manager ‘heroes’ to bring projects in ignores the complexity of modern projects. One person cannot do this alone. Project Managers need the full support not only of the project team but also of the organization. Everyone needs to be capable of delivering the results, as the following example illustrates.
A large manufacturer commenced a major overhaul of all of its systems. This was a ‘make or break’ strategy to break out of the systems environment that was holding the company back and put in modern systems. The project (read IT) budget was massive. It could not be allowed to fail.
The company went to the market and hired ten top, experienced project directors and set them to work.
This program of work had extremely high visibility inside and outside of the company. Any delays, failures or problems would be very visible. The Project Directors were under no illusions as to their task — DELIVER!
The project controls, checks and balances were second to none. Each major project was externally evaluated in detail each month, regular health checks were conducted and the PMO kept a tight rein through the reporting. Most projects were measured as performing well.
The trouble was, the company itself was not up to the task.
- It did not allocate its best staff, but those it didn’t need for running the business (a business under pressure keeps its best staff to run the business). Indeed, one business unit retrenched staff (to make budget) in an area just before it had to release staff for the projects. The project then received fewer staff than it needed stretching the team and reducing the outcomes delivered.
- Requirements were defined in systems-terms, so when the systems were delivered they were found to not match how the company did business. Immediate, clunky workarounds become the norm — across all of the world wide manufacturing plants.
- Change management was left to the business with both inadequate input from the project teams and inadequate skills on the ground. Management thought that issuing edicts that ‘change must happen’ would make it happen. It didn’t. The business was consistently behind in any change planning and execution activities resulting in it never being ready for the systems causing operational mayhem during the first few months after each implementation.
- There was strict technical architectural controls on the systems but few design controls resulting in one system, for example, being designed in way that would have wiped out the company’s profits for the next few years. Remediation took an additional 9 months.
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