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PD Certification

Project Directors: Take Control Over the Projects! (Part 1)

Projects in your organization

 Nowadays, in our Western culture, it’s hard to find an organisation where there are no projects. Whereas in the past a lot of work was done on an ad hoc basis, lately more and more we try to approach it on a structured way. The fact that we live in times of crisis could be a possible cause for this change in approach.

 From the viewpoint of Project Director or management it looks like a major progress, because a more structured approach will lead to faster and cheaper delivery of project results (new or improved products or services).

 However, in reality it is not always a bed of roses. We notice that still lots of projects last longer than expected and that the costs, to deliver the results, are not decreasing on the contrary they’re rising tremendously. Next to this, because of the increasing number of projects, as a Project Director, at a certain point in time you’ll not be able to see the wood for the trees anymore.

More control

 Gaining more control over the projects in order to obtain a clear overview over them, means you should be prepared to take a more steering role. To do this, two structures should be set up, namely: Portfolio Management and the Project (Program) steering committee.

1.      More control through Portfolio management

 Portfolio management includes processes that help to decide whether or not to invest in a particular change (read: investment projects) on the one hand and on the other hand, to guide those investment projects that will be carried out, into the right direction and thus keep them under control.

 A first step is to identify the projects / programs that are being executed at the moment and which are the ones in the pipeline. For each of those it should be investigated whether they are primarily linked to the objectives of the company and what the costs are to deliver the results of the project. If the first part is not fulfilled and / or the costs are too high, in relation to the benefits, then you might consider stopping or even not starting the project.

 When this is done, you’ve succeeded in getting an overview of the projects / programs. But the work is far from finished yet, just because you should take the potential limitations, including the available budgets and the availability of human resources, into account. As a result, not all projects can be implemented and choices have to be made. A help in this can be to provide a prioritization to each of the project.

2.    More control by establishing a steering committee per Project

 One misconception existing already since years is that a project manager is responsible for everything within a project. But that is not correct. The project manager takes the daily management of the project, and must ensure that the requested results are delivered. The ultimate responsibility for the success of the project lies with senior management, which is represented by a steering committee within the project.

 Depending on the size of the project, the steering committee may comprise of one person being the project owner, or more persons, with in addition to the project owner, representatives of users and suppliers.

 Because the steering committee has the final responsibility for the success of the project, it is necessary that you, as its member, gets more control over the project. This can be done by applying a set of principles by which the project and the project manager can be steered.

 These principles, seven in total, are derived from the principles of the Prince2 methodology. However, these are generic, so they can be applied by any which methodology. 

  • Bear the Business Case and act accordingly
  • Learn from experience
  • Involve stakeholders and make them responsible
  • Provide phase by phase assignments
  • Manage by exceptions
  • Focus on products / Steering on results
  • Customize the project method according the size and complexity of the project

 In part 2 of this article, I’ll elaborate these 7 principles more

What Are Your Best Tips for Taking Control Over Your Projects?