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4 Attributes of Mature Project Management Organisations



The premature death of patients is seldom the main focus for attendees of medical congresses. There is a much greater focus on holistic health management of both people and communities. In contrast, most project management congresses have a very strong focus on project failure, and many of the presentations made include references to the Standish Chaos report, or to project disasters that are eloquently recorded in the Catalogue of Catastrophe.

In recent years, more and more people have started to look beyond individual projects at the habitat that catastrophes evolve in – The Organization. The term Organizational Project Management (OPM) was coined to describe a holistic approach to project, program, and portfolio management.

The Project Management Institute defines OPM as “the systematic management of projects, programs, and portfolios in alignment with the achievement of strategic goals. The concept of organizational project management is based on the idea that there is a correlation between an organization's capabilities in project management, program management, and portfolio management, and the organization's effectiveness in implementing strategy.”

In my consulting and training engagements, I have noticed four attributes in organizations that consistently deliver successful projects and create sustainable benefits for employees and shareholders. These attributes appear to be ascending i.e., higher attributes are achieved when lower attributes are in place. The diagram below illustrates how consistent methods, reliable processes, predictable outcomes, and measurable results build on each other to support the delivery of sustainable benefits.

1. Consistent Methods

Consistent Methods refer to an organization’s ability to use the same management methods for all of their portfolios, programs, and projects. Many of us have worked in organizations where nearly every project and program uses different processes, templates, systems, spreadsheets etc. A major contributor to this is the lack of structured induction programs to train project managers on the methods adopted by their organization, and in the usual rush to get projects started, project managers use methods from their personal toolbox, or even worse, they spend a large amount of time developing project-specific methods.

The PMI published an interesting white paper on IBM’s Enterprise PMO, and how consistent methods were key to their success.

2. Reliable Processes

Reliable Processes refer to project management methods that are packaged in simple and accessible processes that can change to meet the project’s goals. I have seen project management process diagrams that have covered entire walls – without exception, the way projects are actually run in those companies has very little bearing on the elaborate processes. To be reliable, a process does not need the PMO’s “Process Police”; it requires buy-in from its users. A process becomes reliable when the people who follow it understand it, can influence it, and experience the benefits of using it.

In his book, Making Sense of Agile Project Management: Balancing Control and Agility, Charles G. Cobb explains the importance of reliable processes.

3. Predictable Outcomes

Predictable Outcomes refer to knowing what the outcome will be even before the project is started. In many organizations, project managers hope for the best when the project is started. Would you want a dentist who “hopes for the best” to work on your teeth? Projects are by their very nature unpredictable and uncertain, but predictability of both problems and outcomes can be improved by learning from past failures and successes, and incorporating those lessons into management methods and processes. Predictability in project management breeds confidence in project teams, and creates credibility with clients.

An article by Pedro C. Ribeiro looks at the predictability of project surprises.

4. Measurable Results

Measurable Results refer to projects that deliver tangible and measurable benefits, and is an outcome of the previous three attributes. Projects that finish within their set time and cost constraints are commendable, but those that also deliver measurable business benefits take organizations to a new level of performance and value. Measurable results are the natural outcome of unemotional portfolio selection methods and consistent project management practices during planning and execution. The APM gives an overview of what Benefits Measurement in project management is.

Organizations that have matured in their project management appear to have consistent methods that are implemented through reliable processes. This allows them to predict project outcomes and deliver measurable results.

The four attributes described here give an outside view of some of the qualities of a mature organization; they are the result of deliberate and well-planned initiatives in the organization. In a future post I will discuss the inside view of companies that are successfully growing their maturity.

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