I am currently working with a medium-sized plc on a change programme designed to help them manage their data more effectively. The company, although very successful in its line of work has employed no standardised approach to project management, often relying on a zealous individual or the supply chain to provide project management expertise. This expertise will often come labelled as ‘PRINCE2’ or use terms such as ‘Agile’ or ‘Waterfall’ and in effect be superimposed on the organisation regardless of the prevailing culture. These methodologies or approaches must be a ‘good thing’ as they are labels which bring credibility to a particular way of doing things (for a long time in the case of PRINCE2) or are well received buzzwords in the world of business.
Some project management approaches are clearly best suited to certain environments- The one that springs to mind is ‘Agile’ in the case of software development, but perhaps this approach isn’t so applicable for an office move. The message is that one size won’t fit all, but that something needs to fit. Why? Well, if you don’t put some form of control around activities which fall outside the day-to-day business of the organisation you might see costs go out of control or things takings longer than anticipated. Similarly, if you don’t know where you’re going, you won’t know if you’ve got there.
Regardless of the complexity of the project some form of planning is clearly needed for work outside the day to day business of the organisation. To my mind it’s a case of picking the best bits of these methodologies to suit the prevailing culture, and to further pare these back if necessary so that there is still some form of control but in a form that’s palatable to the behaviours and values of the business. Bigger and higher risk projects can easily create their own ecosystems- programme boards are set up, project teams, quality assurance teams and so forth, and before you know it overheads become unwieldy.
The general rule of thumb is that as risk increases so more control is needed to help mitigate that risk. At a very basic level you need someone to be responsible for the project, something that says what you are going to do and an estimate of the time and cost, and then a mechanism to see how you are getting on as work progresses. As complexity and risk increases, so more checks and balances in the form of reports and teams can be created, but they should be ones which fit with the way business is typically done. In order to mitigate the effects of unnecessary overheads, I have often suggested that a proportion of time is spent by an existing management group to monitor project progress, rather than setting up a separate project board. Although the content may seem irrelevant to some in the group, it encourages a broader perspective on the business and aids communication.
With this in mind, most projects will progress more or less as anticipated. As human beings are involved in the process, it will be impossible to predict everything, but you can get started with your eyes open, rather than relying on a supplier to tell you. Finally, and the hardest thing to do, is if things aren’t going to plan, to have the courage to pull the plug. If this happens, learn from what went wrong, and that way it shouldn’t happen again!