Project Management: Delivering The Promise

PM Commentary by Stacy Goff, ProjectExperts CEO.
This posting is inspired by the theme of IPMA’s 25th World Congress, Brisbane, Australia, October 10-12 2011. Thanks to the insight and graciousness of the Australians, we are again using the theme one more time at the IPMA-USA Congress scheduled for 5 March, 2012, in Washington DC. Nothing like taking a good idea and re-using it multiple times!

First, thank you to IPMA Member Association AIPM (Australian Institute of Project Management) for a great 2011 IPMA World Congress, and for the inspired theme of the Congress: Project Management—Delivering the Promise.

The promise of project and program management is efficient, effective and beneficial change. We as a profession make that promise to four types of audiences:

  • Individual PM Practitioners;
  • Project Teams and Stakeholders;
  • Enterprise Managers and Executives; and to
  • Nations and Society.

Each of these audiences has different needs and different expectations. Let’s explore them.

Our First Audience, Individual PM Practitioners,
expects to improve their project performance, while increasing their job satisfaction and career progression opportunities. To accomplish that, we must move beyond classroom knowledge and testing that brings only short-term results. Why is this important? Based on recent research the half-life of knowledge acquired but not applied is only two weeks. We must follow classroom training with on-the-job application of that knowledge, with four goals: Develop needed skills, improve behavioral competences, gain end-to-end project experience, and achieve measurable project performance results.

Individuals who are Delivering the Promise add interpersonal skills and contextual competence elements to build on their technical knowledge areas. The IPMA Competence Baseline uniquely emphasizes this wide range of competences needed for individual performance. This competence approach is proving to be very popular, as other associations are now adding some Behavioral content to their certifications. We applaud that move, because we have known for years that project success depends more on interpersonal skills than on all technical knowledge put together. Perhaps all practitioners, regardless of which PM associations they identify with, will soon begin Delivering the Promise.

Our Second Audience, Project Teams and Stakeholders,
deserves, from their project efforts, recognition, a sense of gratification, and measurable business results. And yet, too often we see barriers to meeting those expectations. Too many organizations fail to commit the right talent, the right amount of time, to their initiatives. The consequence? Unacceptable project failure rates. To Deliver the Promise, We must move Beyond Certification of project managers, to also encourage the PM competence development of team members, sponsors, resource managers and executive decision-makers.

In Delivering the Promise to Project Teams and Stakeholders, it’s clear that you must assess—and correct—the PM competence of the weakest links in your organization—those who, when their competence gaps are filled, can amplify the effectiveness of project teams and stakeholders. Our experience is that even minor adjustments in middle-management and other key stakeholder competences can make important differences in Delivering the Promise to Project Teams and Stakeholders.

Our Third Audience, Enterprise Managers and Executives,
first of all, expects that project stakeholder needs are met. We also expect greater transparency into project efforts, and demonstrated return on investment. More importantly, we expect the promise to be kept, that Projects are the actions that implement our strategies. And yet, we see huge gaps between that vision and the reality. Between the promise and its delivery. As a result, too many of us have added even more layers between our role and the role of “those people down there who do projects.” A tragedy, because the opposite action is what is more-often needed.

For many enterprises, the vision of the all-enterprise portfolio, that joins capital management, operations, and projects and programs, is far away. Early adopters will quickly embrace the approach, but the vast majority will not soon do so. Why? They have poor management information before, during and after most of their projects. To help Deliver the Promise, PRO, the Performance Rated Organization standard, together with its sister product IPMA Delta, an organizational PM assessment and certification service, both support top-down assessments of the way you manage your project environment. They help identify actions needed to measurably improve—and certify—organizational PM maturity and performance. With PRO and IPMA Delta, Managers and Executives have new ways to Deliver the Promise.

Our Fourth and Last Audience, Nations and Society,
has great expectations of us all in Delivering the Promise. We, as project and program managers, build the infrastructure that helps developing nations feed, shelter and care for their citizens. We improve fresh and waste water processing, for both developing and developed countries. Improve Energy Management. Help nations prosper through projects that improve national competitiveness in an increasingly global economy. All these expectations involve projects, and some are far less successful than our nations’ citizens deserve. Our discipline of beneficial change should also be the hope and dream in our society of every citizen, every student, every worker, every entrepreneur, every jobless person, and every retired senior. But only when we can consistently Deliver the Promise.

Delivering the Promise includes improving PM Learning in developing countries, adding our insights of the importance of the soft side of PM. It includes working with our IPMA Federation of Member Associations to help project managers, contractors and government officials to connect with and receive essential learning. It means an ongoing in-country support system to perpetuate the learning beyond the classroom, and into desperately needed projects. In those projects, it also means recognizing Project Excellence in initiatives around the globe through the IPMA Awards Program—you see, too many people think PM success is an impossible dream, until we highlight your successes in your own neighborhood.

Anyone can make promises, but Delivering the Promise involves managing successful change. Each of our four audiences look to our Project and Program Managers to be their Change Agents. And because of the efforts of IPMA-USA in the USA, and of tens of thousands of other IPMA members in over 50 countries, we are well-prepared to meet their expectations, in Delivering the Promise!

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