Proposed Core Concepts of Project Management - Part 1
1. The Cultural Environment
Management must provide an informed and supportive cultural environment that is suited to project-type work to ensure that the project delivery team are able to work to the maximum of their capacity.
Explanation: The ability of a project delivery team to produce results both effectively and efficiently is highly dependent upon the cultural environment. This cultural environment encompasses both internal and external project relations and values. Internally, the management style of the team leader must be suited to the type of project and its phase in the project life span. Externally, the management of the organization in which the project takes place must be supportive, the project sufficiently resourced, and the environment must be free of obstacles such as corporate edicts that are not supportive of project management.
Hence, the resulting ambience is one that encourages and sustains teamwork and honesty and demonstrates that:
- Everyone is clear on the project's ultimate goals and is working towards those same goals, whatever those might be.
- Everyone is clear and agrees on who the customer is.
- Appropriate levels of skill or experience are available as needed, and
- Everyone wants the project to be a success.
2. The Project System
A well-managed project is a complex system in which the management processes proceed through a sequence that relies heavily on doing the right thing in the right way and at the right time.
Explanation: A well-managed project is one that is optimized for effectiveness in its planning phases but emphasizes efficiency in its implementation phases. Implementation includes the transfer of the product to the care, custody and control of the customer. In reality, the complex system referred to consists of an intricate collection of interacting balancing and non-balancing mental feedback processes, each with their own cause, effect and side effect patterns. This complicated, often random, arrangement is enough to defeat many minds. In other words, "an inability to see the forest for the trees" is a problem for many individuals. But for the project manager, "an ability to see the forest as well as the trees" is an imperative for running a successful project.
Thus, project management is dominated by high levels of decision-making activities that absorb a considerable amount of effort since decisions on one part of the system can have significant repercussions on other parts of the system. This is why establishing and maintaining a robust and up-to-date Business Case is an essential prerequisite for "doing the right thing in the right way and at the right time".
3. The Project Strategy
A strategy focused on planning before doing, encompassing a pre-determined set of sequential and progressive phases, must be in place.
Explanation: The genesis of the project life cycle, in its most basic form, is to be found in the very term "project management" itself. A project has, by definition, a start and a finish with some activity in the middle. The essence of management is to "plan before doing". Hence the most fundamental project life cycle process consists of four sequential periods of Start, Plan, Do and Finish. Of course these four periods can be expanded into separate phases each with their own interim deliverables and Executive Control Points (or Gates) that can also be viewed as Emergency Exit Ramps. These can be designed to suit the control requirements of every type of project in every area of project management application and are particularly important from the perspective of project portfolio management. Indeed, this sequence is, in effect, equally applicable at every level and branch of the project's work breakdown structure. It is also just as relevant where a fast-track strategy or an iterative approach is adopted.
The importance of this life cycle process and its influence on the management of the project cannot be over emphasized. This relatively short-term life-to-death environment, and the consequences that flow, is probably the one thing that uniquely distinguishes projects from non-projects.
4. Project Success
The measures of project success, in terms of process, product, and stakeholders' satisfaction, must be defined at the beginning of the project as a basis for project management decision-making and post-project evaluation.
Explanation: It is axiomatic that the goal of project management is to deliver a successful product, otherwise the incurring of this management overhead is a wasted effort. First and foremost, the project's proponents must define project success in terms of the acceptability of the project's deliverables, e.g. scope, quality, relevance to client needs, effectiveness, profitability, general benefits to the organization and so on.
Secondly, success should be defined in terms of the project's internal processes, e.g. time, cost, execution efficiency, etc. The timing of the measurement of success itself may also need specifying. Moreover, the proponents must be in general agreement on the definition of these success criteria, for without agreement, it will not be possible to evaluate the success of the project overall upon its conclusion.
It goes without saying that these measures of project success should be verified and reinforced throughout the project life cycle. As a corollary, if the success measures are no longer in alignment with the organization's business goals at any point, it should be perfectly acceptable to abort the project or at least halt it pending re-evaluation. (See also Discussion: Project Success, below.)