Eddie Kilkelly, Chief Operating Officer at ILX Group, commented: “The primary challenge for Project Managers has always been to deliver the required output within the specified constraints of time, cost and quality and applying a best practice model offers significant benefits. We have seen an increased appetite for courses such as PRINCE2 both in the private sector and in educational institutions where PRINCE2 modules are actively integrated into undergraduate courses. Improvements in such project management training and access to technology should mean Project Managers have never been better equipped to succeed, yet a significant proportion of projects still fail. The problem is that project management is often viewed as a training issue for an individual, rather than an organisational competence. Many organisations are incurring losses in productivity and profits because of this fundamental mistake.”
ILX recommends a five step process to improve project management success:
1. Make the business case: Embedding best practice within the organisation can be costly, so HR Managers and Operations Managers will need to convince senior managers of the business benefits by providing a cost/benefit justification. Audited proof of skills gaps will help, but HR professionals should engage with colleagues to identify the real financial, operational and reputational costs associated with failed projects. For example, the UK Government revealed in 2008 that it had cancelled £273m worth of major IT projects in the previous five years. Most organisations should be able to estimate the cost of ineffective or cancelled projects, which are likely to dwarf the cost of embedding best practice. Alternatively, HR professionals may work with Operations Managers to integrate tailored project management training into the budgets for new projects.
2. Train the Organisation, not just the Individual: Human nature dictates that if you deliver project management training to 50 individuals, each will leave the course with a slightly different perception of what they have learnt and a different way of implementing that learning. In order to achieve consistency, uniform approaches and procedures to managing projects should be adopted throughout the organisation and communicated accordingly. A standard approach establishes ground rules and expectations for the entire project team and provides a common language for project management. This ensures that regular communication and stakeholder engagement become a natural part of the process.
3. Transfer the model to real life scenarios: Project management that focuses on methodology, but not its practical implementation and use, is more likely to result in failed projects. Methodologies such as PRINCE2® are flexible enough to adapt to the needs of many different types of organisations and projects, but this lack of hard and fast rules can be confusing, particularly for inexperienced project managers. Training for Project Managers and team members must include examples of how best practice is applied on a practical level within the organisation. Moreover, ongoing support such as a buddy or mentoring system enables Project Managers to access the knowledge and experience of others in order to avoid or overcome problems and further develop their skills.
4. Recognise that failure provides an opportunity to deliver success: A key cause of project failure is the lack of communication. It is best practice to communicate early and often, whether the news is good or bad. However, Project Managers may feel that it is an admission of failure if they have to report that progress is too slow or that the project is over budget. The corporate culture must allow bad news to be communicated honestly in order to address problems before they lead to project failure. The earlier this is done, when more options are available, the greater the chance of delivering a successful project.
5. Embrace technology to deliver continuous training when and where it is needed: Project Managers must be able to learn about best practice models and refresh their knowledge. In addition, project team members may also benefit from learning project management skills. Mobile learning, social learning and integrated learning mean training is no longer restricted to the classroom or formal e-learning courses. Many courses are now available in bite size modules and downloadable Apps, making it easier than ever before to learn and re-learn essential skills in a way that fits with the learner’s work schedule.
Kilkelly concludes, “Project Management is arguably the single most prevalent role in business today, so it should be seen as a key competence within the organisation, like finance. As such, it is important to view project management training as an ongoing process rather than a one-off training event. Globally, we are seeing that organisations have come to appreciate that flexible training offers increased depth of understanding and confidence, enabling individual project managers and team members to perform their job roles more effectively. The potential savings in terms of operational efficiency, cost management and improvements in the organisation‘s reputation are too high for project management skills not to be considered a worthwhile investment in any organisation.”
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