The survival of project management


When an organization starts a new project or program, they also have to define the project management approach and governance structure (or at least adapt the company standard).

This includes different kinds of meetings, tools, reports, roles & responsibilities, etc.

Although the structure is well thought and has maybe proven its value in the past, it hardly ever stays in place after six months in the project. Take status reporting for instance. At the start of the project, every team lead conscientiously creates a status report after the demo and mails it to the entire team and stakeholders. But after a couple of months, reports get skipped until they are abandoned completely.

Only the added value activities remain intact. When a status report is not actively used, sooner or later people will question its relevance and will try to abandon it. After all, there are much more demanding things to do, in the lifetime of a project. This behavior is even enforced by the time pressure that starts to increase. Although the reasoning may be relevant and justified, it carries a certain risk.

All parts of a project management structure are there for a reason. Status reports might not be the most fun to create, but they help to keep remote people up to speed. If we would abandon them without thinking of alternatives, we risk isolating some people from the project’s progress.

A continuous improvement culture is a great way to manage those risks. When on a regular basis, your people take time to reflect and discuss wasteful activities, better alternatives will rise to the surface. Not because management imposes to find an alternative, but because in a continuous improvement culture people will do root cause analysis. They discover what is slowing them down and search for ways how to avoid this. If creating the status report takes half a day every 2 weeks, the team will discuss whether or not this is justified. If it’s not, alternatives are searched for, because when shaping an improvement idea, people get insights into the matter. They won’t abandon a practice when they understand its purpose. Instead, they will search for better ways to serve those needs.

So instead of imposing a project management structure onto your people, simply start with a structure and optimize it using continuous improvement. Chances are higher that your project will deliver its goals while still fulfilling all company governance needs. Many agile teams have embraced this approach. Every couple of weeks they engage in a retrospective which helps them to optimize their process and reduce waste. An agile team typically finds and tunes its own ideal way of working within the boudaries of the company governance.


photo credit: DSCN4409 (license)

About Nick Oostvogels

Hi, I'm an independent management consultant. My biggest strengths are located in the fields of teamwork, motivation, leadership and continuous improvement. In the IT industry you find a lot of these values in the agile movement, in which I often act as a project leader, product owner or coach. My interests go a lot further, into other industries where we find these values in lean production. Besides that, I try to broaden my horizon as much as possible, always looking for better ways of doing business.

One comment

  1. Frederik Vannieuwenhuyse

    Reblogged this on Technology Unplugged..

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