Project effectiveness is improved through project maturity, leadership and organization  - Peak Consulting Group A/S - UK




Project effectiveness is improved through project maturity, leadership and organization 

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Spotlight on project maturity and project effectiveness  

Here at Peak Consulting Group, we have experienced an increased demand across groups of both public and private customers, for a bigger focus on increasing project effectiveness through risk management, competence development of for example project managers, organization of project management and optimization of processes.  

But which initiatives can be implemented to increase the project effectiveness, and what is effectiveness in relation to projects? In the following, we will attempt to answer these questions.  

What is effectiveness?  

  1. Do projects accomplish their agreed-upon project goals? 
  1. Is the organization is completing the ‘right’ project at any given time? 
  1. Are the changes being properly anchored within the organization, in order to realize the expected benefits?  

In the following, we will take an in-depth look at the model’s 4 elements. 

Structured experience gathering  

Maintenance and ongoing improvement of project effectiveness demands structured experience gathering and project maturity. It is essential, that the experiences are incorporated directly into the applied processes, methods and tools, as very few people actually read the many lessons learned-documents, that are created over time.  

Maturity increases effectiveness 

The starting point for effectiveness in projects is that the organization has a high maturity in their project management. 

Said somewhat simplistically, maturity is all about ensuring that the organization knows why a project succeeds and thereby is able to replicate their approach to project completion and learn from the reasons that projects fail.  

Maturity of project management can for example be achieved through use of standard project models, project steering models and delivery models.  

Standard models within project management can for instance be found in PRINCE2®. High project maturity gives, according to PMI, up to a 50% increase to the effectiveness of project costs and completion time. 

Leader-behaviour improves effectiveness  

Effective project completion requires more than just project maturity. It requires different behaviour from project managers than what is typically seen today. To begin with, project managers need to take ownership of their projects. This will lead to greater motivation in the steering of projects.  

This leads us to the need for project managers to view themselves as leaders and really lead their project participants. A business without leaders does not get anywhere, and the same thing happens with leaderless projects, which often end up being ineffective in every way. 

Thirdly, projects must be steered on the basis of a goal regime, as this gives, among other things, a common understanding of the purpose of the project, the project’s delivery strategy, along with making it possible to place any discissions with the individual project participant.  

This means, that everyone can make decisions, as they have a clear picture of whether their decision will lead towards or away from their goals. Lastly, the project manager needs to exhibit farsightedness. They have to be able to look beyond the confines of the project in order to react to changes in the project owner’s environment. Otherwise, the project either ends up with many wishes for amendments or with its deliverables not supporting the project owner’s business.  

The organization’s responsibility for effectiveness  

Many organizations do not support projects. In their way of organizing and acting, they are built to support the bottom-line.  

This has to change, if a streamlining of their project completion and general project organization is to be carried out. In the following we cover project portfolio management, the project office, co-management, the project manager as leader, and benefits realization. 

Project portfolio management 

One of the most significant ways the organization can contribute to effectiveness, is to ensure that it always completes the right projects. 

By ‘right’ we mean the projects which are right for the organization. For this purpose, you can implement project portfolio management (PPL). 

PPL focuses on, whether the individual project is relevant and whether it can continuously meet the standards of the business case. If this is not the case, the project is terminated. 

Similarly, PPL seeks to ensure, that only the relevant projects with dependable business cases are initiated.  

PPL thereby guarantees the optimal utilization of resources. According to a presentation from the Agency for Public Finance and Management, organizations experience an increased ROI of between 5 to 25% through the implementation of PPL. 

The project office supports effective steering  

It is poor utilization of the project manager’s time, to make them responsible for all steering- and administration related activities.  

As mentioned, they must lead their project and, most importantly, interact with the project’s stakeholders, in order to achieve an effective project completion and goal fulfilment. The steering- and administration-related activities can be left to a project office (PMO), who can simultaneously ensure uniform project management via the chosen standards.  

According to a study conducted by Cranfield University, 30% more of organizations with a PMO utilize project management methods, 30% more utilize a development model, and 10% more focus on benefits realization.  

The steering committee must be co-responsible  

It is well-known that the project’s effectiveness is dependent on a decisive steering committee, who can make on-the-spot decisions, so the project is not placed on hold; but just as important, is the steering committee exercising co-leadership over the project.  

The steering committee continuously has to challenge the project manager, but it is important that it accepts co-responsibility for the success of the project and avoids blaming the project and the project manager, if problems arise. 

The line-management and others who hand over resources for projects, also need to practice co-leadership. This is to ensure, that project work is included in the employee’s seniority and career development. 

Give the project managers management competency and project maturity 

It is important that the organization gives project managers project competency.  

Nobody can be effective in their leadership, when responsibility and competency do not go hand-in-hand.  

Project leaders need to, for example, have the right to fire an employee from their project, have formal rights (power) in relation to employee care, decision-making etc.  

Benefits realization and performance assessments 

Top management needs to ensure that benefits realization is actually accomplished. This is complicated, as it can be difficult to assess the direct connection between a project and the estimated benefit. 

Aside from assessments, it is recommended to tie benefits realization to performance assessments. For example, if a project owner has guaranteed a certain benefit in connection with the recommendation of their project, the benefit is then included in their performance assessment.  

Changes must be anchored 

When projects have ensured that the business has attained skills in the application of their deliverables, it is important, that the business guarantees that these skills are utilized for realizing the anticipated benefit.  

This necessitates an anchoring of the change the project was created to support. “Bad” effectiveness is often a result of a lack of anchoring, a lack of change model, as well as a lack of integration of the models for project management and change management.  

The organization needs to support the change process through their governance and processes. 

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Ensuring that benefits realisation is actually achieved. This is complicated as it can be difficult to measure the direct link between a project and the expected benefits

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