3 golden rules of successful project management

Project management is one of the most integral elements to a business, whether for a technology implementation, a new business process or something else entirely. However, projects require a certain level of investment, so larger organisations (and an increasing number of high-growth firms) take project management very seriously as they seek to show return on that investment.

Strong and effective project management establishes processes that can be reused across the business, saving time and resources. It also means that projects can be started (and finished) quicker, potential issues can be identified and addressed earlier, and communication is improved. Yet many organisations have a somewhat haphazard approach to project management. So what are the golden rules for successful project management?

Don’t hang around

Business in 2016 is all about immediacy. The rise of Uber and similarly disruptive new services has meant businesses are being challenged to modify their ways of working and their communication strategies more rapidly than ever before. In turn, this has meant that traditional highly structured project management methodologies are proving to be inadequate.

Whereas old-style project management focused on delivering a tightly scoped outcome within a fixed budget, the trend now is toward project management as a tool to ensure that optimal results are achieved in the shortest possible time. Team membership is becoming much more fluid as knowledge workers are drawn in from inside and outside the business to contribute as needed.

This approach needs collaborative, relatively unstructured delivery, with individuals supplying their skills as needed on a voluntary basis. Lean project management is essential to protect quality and schedule, with resourcing and funding no longer in the sole control of senior managers.

Embrace the knowledge worker

Many businesses, and especially those that are fast-growing, struggle to maintain a healthy balance between ‘business as usual’ workload and project-based work. Expertise resides in the heads of those most familiar with the inner workings of the business, and these people are often in demand for the value of their contribution to infrastructure and expansion projects. Assembling traditional project teams requires the co-opting or temporary assignment of key individuals for extended periods to avoid projects operating in a virtual vacuum.

A new type of knowledge worker is now beginning to emerge. Born out of traditional business analysis approaches, these workers are being tasked with continuous improvement to the processes with which they work. They are being given project management support to embed improvements into the business as usual, so they retain an understanding of how work is evolving without being buried in the day-to-day.

This new work role marries the need for project management skills more closely to that of typical task based work. While it may not prove suitable for larger change programmes, it does go a long way to providing a stable and evolving base on which to build a business.

Identify (and retain) the new breed of project manager

Businesses now are constantly generating new initiatives, each one a potential drain on resource and time. So project management must reflect the changing needs of its environment. Lean business operations place heavy demands on the project management office (PMO): a small team needs to work hands-on, strengthening foundations while creating building blocks for the future, under extreme time pressure and with limited resources.

These challenges demand a different breed of project manager, who thrives under stress, is able to grasp novel concepts as they surface within the business, and has an intense commercial and technical awareness of the impact of options. It is becoming much more about doing the right things than just doing things right.

They must also be confident in challenging decision makers over matters such as scalability and supportability of IT platforms, timings of multiple major changes, and their exponential impact on staff. Such individuals will become worth their weight in gold, with increasing levels of automation of business-as-usual, and as the trend toward project-based work increases.

Deployed by the world’s biggest organisations and the world’s smartest high-growth firms, enlightened project management will one day become an essential element of business and technology, if it isn’t already. Following the three steps outlined above will help ensure any organisation approach project management in the right way and set them on the path to project management success.

Maurice Vink, Principal Consultant, PeopleTECH

Image source: Shutterstock/OPOLJA