Why You Can’t Ignore Project Management
By Gail Whitaker, DM, University Dean of Business and Management
Let’s compare the best project managers to the best swimmers – in order to excel at either, you must accept your limitations. The best swimmers will often note how they respect the ocean. Although they have some skills, these swimmers will not try to master the ocean. Organizations need to do the same. Staff may have some management or organizational skills – but not everyone is equipped to manage a project fully.
The challenges with the Affordable Care Act implementation have been described by Forbes as a project management failure. In their article, HealthCare.gov Diagnosis: The Government Broke Every Rule Of Project Management, they described common gaps when project management is not effectively used in managing initiatives.
When you say the words project management, some organizations think about master schedules, complicated project management software programs, and the need for expansive budgets to hire a team to track dependencies and risks. However, Project Management is a discipline that every organization needs because it always brings value. Project management includes the discipline for project, program, and portfolio management.
So why do so many companies fail to apply project management to organizational initiatives? Here are four reasons why:
- The staff isn’t trained in project management. Companies think untrained but organized staff members can manage a project without proper project management training or knowledge. Staff unfamiliar with the tools, processes, and techniques of successful project management will often rely on their ability to control the entire process. This type of control leads to less interaction, and a tremendous burden on the individual. They’ll also fail to reap the benefits of collaborating with a knowledgeable team. These challenges can result in failed initiatives or implementations. PM Perspectives Research Group calls these untrained managers “accidental project managers.”
- They feel training is expensive and unnecessary. Companies faced with limited resources will often cut project management training because they do not understand the necessity or do not see any tangible returns on investments. What they have not calculated is how project costs exceed budgets, and that the cost of these project failures can exceed millions.
- Project management skills aren’t viewed as critical to project success. KPMG’s Project Management Survey Report shows that project activity is increasing in organizations but project failures are also increasing. The report shows that a Project Management Officer (PMO) adds value and has been linked as a success factor in projects, however, PMOs are decreasing. Organizations are removing the success factor for the effective implementation of their critical initiatives.
- Consultants are viewed as extravagant. Some organizations do not need a full time project management staff and they do not feel their needs are complex or extensive enough to hire costly Project Management consultants. They either use staff to “wing it” or try to spread project management responsibilities across multiple staff. There are numerous risks and challenges with having an “accidental project manager” and those risks and challenges multiply when you spread the responsibilities to numerous “accidental project managers”. There are project management consultants for all sizes and scopes of a project. The Project Management Institute provides a guide on selecting the right consultant.
In conclusion, just as no one should try to master the ocean, no one should try to master the complexities of projects without including the success factors. The success of your project impacts performance, productivity and the financial health of the organization.
Let’s hear from you, how does your organization handle project, program, or portfolio management activities?
Gail Whitaker, DM, is the University Dean of Business and Management at Colorado Technical University. She has more than 25 years of management training and is committed to helping students achieve their goals through education. Follow her on Twitter @drgailwhitaker.
Image credit: Vancouver Film School