In many organisations, projects are the vehicle through which significant change happens. As a Project or Program Manager you are responsible for consistently delivering on the goals of your change initiatives, on-time and on-budget. These changes include many business-critical activities such as developing new products or services, entering new markets and building new capabilities.
The success of any project or program will be measured on delivery of the project scope, to the agreed quality standard, within the agreed timeframe and budget. The link between execution of project deliverables and achievement of the targeted business benefits should also be continuously evaluated during and after the project’s completion.
Some of the larger challenges that we frequently observe among Project and Program Managers include:
- Failure to consolidate and challenge stakeholder requirements & expectations. The most effective project and program managers take ownership for engaging with all of their key stakeholders at the beginning of a project to collate and document their detailed requirements. As part of this process they will validate exactly what will, and will not, be delivered. Ambiguity in scope or quality expectations can often lead to subjectivity in evaluating project performance. This frequently leads to visible disappointment for key stakeholders and a demoralised project team.
- Failure to develop a realistic business case. Often Project or Program managers fail to clearly state the assumptions that link the delivery of project activities with the realisation of tangible business benefits. For example, delivering a project that is intended to provide a growth in sales, may be dependent on assumptions around future exchange rates and taxation. In turn, the benefits of expanding the production capacity at the factory may be dependent on achievement of the forecast sales volumes. By clearly stating all key assumptions, stakeholders have greater visibility over the major risks that might jeopardise achievement of the intended business value.
- Failing to plan effectively. We find a great deal of discrepancy amongst leaders in terms of what constitutes an effective project or program plan. The most common errors include overly simplistic, or overly complex, breakdowns of work, unrealistic work estimation and poor resource availability assumptions. These issues commonly lead to pie-in-the-sky project or program plans that often set up the project or program manager for failure before they have even begun.
- Failing to effectively manage risk Even the best laid plans can be undone without adequate attention to project or program risk. While it is impossible to foresee all challenges that will be faced, there are many that can be anticipated and proactively mitigated to avoid impacting the time, cost or performance of an initiative. Effective project and program managers have a systematic process for managing risk and continuously adapting their plans throughout the project.
- Failing to maintain accountability during execution. Highly effective thinking in the planning stages of a project can quickly be let down by weak ‘doing’ during implementation. Project and program leaders that fail to manage the ‘performance system’ of all team members, will also fail to consistently deliver against their well laid out plans. Being highly effective at the people side of project management requires a fundamental understanding of the multitude of factors that drive human behaviour and how they can be influenced. In the absence of effective tools for understanding and influencing human behaviour, many project leaders fail to achieve real team accountability.
- Failing to effectively manage stakeholders. Stakeholder expectations need to be carefully managed throughout a project. Effective project and program managers will reflect real project risk in their communication of anticipated timelines and budgets with key stakeholders Simplification of project reporting and communication is also essential to ensure that time-strapped stakeholders are receiving just the right quantity of data and information to aid effective leadership decision making. Over-loading stakeholders with excessive complexity can often lead to overwhelm and disengagement; a common cause of project failure.
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If you can identify with any of the issues above, why not contact us today to learn more about how Pico can help you and your organisation to transform the way you manage projects and programs.