Project Management In A Pygmy World


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Project Management In A Pygmy World

  1. 1. Project management in a pygmy world!! Abstract Certainly a bizarre title! Yes, we have read enough about the successful project management methodologies in Project management the large-large organizations. Piles of knowledge are available methodologies are often in structured organizational knowledge repositories with perceived as being hundreds of highly skilled project managers decorated with practiced in big latest credentials and qualifications. We all know that it is a organizations alone. Small world of dynamism, glamour and richness. Highly respected organizations either brands and people, to whom project management means negated the need to have bringing success in every minute and in every business. structured project management or were But is there another world around? Yes, certainly- the so totally ignorant on the called space of SMBs (Small Medium Business) or even a benefits it could reap. This space in those puny organizations, which does not even paper tries to explain, that qualify as SMBs, but who are ambitious, filled with building a project enthusiasm and energy. Many of them are not just more than a management approach in dream- a big dream of touching the sky sooner or later!!! small organizations shall Does the project management make any sense to these be much easier and hassle- pygmies? Where things are being driven ad-hoc and often end free than in a ‘biggie’. up in disarray. Where people slog day in and out in Though the article is not an uncertainty but keep coming back to their dream every implementation guideline, morning... it sheds light on the A big YES. Project management does make sense to them, challenges one may probably more than their goliath counterparts. This paper tries encounter. to put an approach on building a tailored project management model to small organizations. The article does not focus on the detailed implementation but abstracts on how a project management culture and underlining methodology can be implemented.
  2. 2. Early Challenges No need to mention that anyone who wanted to implement project management methodology in small organization will face numerous challenges and road blocks. One of the very first challenges will be to overcome the perception of the senior management - that project management is just another jargon for the big organizations. Senior executives tend to think that having activities driven through a process will add delay and thus waste time and money. It requires reasonable awareness that the project management in some way or other helps to increase the return of investment (ROI), profitability and customer satisfaction indexes. Interestingly one of the Gartner research found that a methodology applied loosely could improve productivity by 30%. It should be a help to the organization’s growth strategy, not a hindrance. Senior management may also feel that the organization is too small to think about project management methodologies or does not have enough skill set to educate the employees or build structured knowledge around the process. Another challenge shall be to draw a line between a project management methodology and other methodologies and frameworks. There may be one or two methodologies being already used in the organization like ITIL or variants of SDLC. It is essential to convince the management that other methodologies serve diverse purposes but when used together with project management can unleash great synergy. The bottom line question answered by a project management methodology is that ‘are we doing things aptly and will it be done within the stipulated time frame, cost and quality?’The two most appealing factors which distinguish the project management methodology from others are its ability to deal with numbers (cost, benefit and schedule) and its ability to apply broadly to solve multitude of organizational challenges. The success of project management implementation in a small organization originates with the realization that project management is nothing but application of structured, organized commonsense. Resistance to Change Once you are successful in influencing the senior management in a positive way, then the real game starts. In technology organizations where most of the employees are ‘techies’ including people managers, any thing about project management or processes will be perceived as useless documentations and series of meetings. They think that issues can be solved by
  3. 3. applying technology and knowledge alone. Senior staff members may feel that project management shall bring an additional layer of control that will kill the fun in doing things. The only way to overcome this is to propel a well defined Change Acceleration Program (CAP) which would weed out the apprehensions and root cause of the resistance. This is possible only if there is a continuous organizational communication and awareness plan highlighting the benefits of the project management. The awareness sessions must demonstrate how each individual will be benefited by driving activities as controlled projects. Moreover the seniority, influence and acceptability of the individual(s) driving the whole effort will be a Critical Success Factor as otherwise it would be difficult to get an employee buy- in. In my opinion, inculcating the culture of project management should happen as a ‘change mandate’ as otherwise the significance of the methodology may be sacrificed in the altars of business priorities and associated timelines. As the change management will have a natural slow progression; without having strong thought leadership and ability to pull through the finishing line, shall significantly impact the end objective. The pigmy organizations are play grounds of recurrent strategy alterations, status quo challenges and people attritions which add to the risk of losing the direction. The major difference in a small organization compared to a ‘biggie’, is that, one should require plentiful commitment, leadership and optimism to steer through. The sponsors of the whole program should be great change leaders and skillful motivators. More over they should have a clear insight on the benefits and value addition, the methodology would bring in. Carpenter’s rule: cut to fit; beat into place The next challenge shall be to choose a right sized project management methodology for your organization. Now that you have decided to use one, which one will be the best fit? There are countless choices, like PMI’s PMBOK, OGC’s PRINCE2, Agile, Extreme programming etc. There are many consulting firms created ‘home grown’ methodologies based on their experience and business demands. Some of these methodologies have been digitized and available as off- the-shelf products. There can be two major considerations before you make any selection. Conduct a due-diligence in your organization to see if there is any available expertise in any of the well known methodologies, if so it would be a wise idea to reuse the same. Secondly try to
  4. 4. see what methodology is most popular in your geography. Example - PRINCE2 is more familiar in UK and European work places while PMBOK is mostly practiced in North America and Asia. Since everyone in the organization will be impacted, it is advisable to outline a task group involving representations from various departments to propose a right sized methodology. When selecting any methodology there is often a debate that ensues among the multiple stakeholders. Each party tends to highlight the emotional or cosmetic problems rather than whether the methodologies under evaluation will improve project performance of the organization. One should stay focused on the fundamental project management elements to be able to drive the selection past the debating points. Please be cautious not to get in to the tools and template traps as there is a general perception that project management is nothing but filling templates and creating activity lists in a tool. There is no thumb rule that one must adopt any well-known project management methodology. Based on your business demands and organizational skill level it may be possible to define a framework which can contain tailored practices from multiple methodologies. A ‘one size fits all’ or a universal project management methodology is not available to solve all jigsaw puzzles from day one. So being a small organization, it is essential to identify the scope and objective of the methodology implementation and what are all the immediate business challenges that will be addressed with it. The project management approach is not a silver bullet as it is perceived to be. The risk of setting unrealistic expectations is elevated in a small organization due to lack of organizational maturity, people capability and experience. Roll the dice... Now that you have achieved management approval, created organization wide awareness and finalized a methodology, the next phase will be the deciding factor to win or lose. This is the phase where you get to apply multiple knowledge areas of a project management methodology. My recommendation would be to start rolling the dice with the formation of a small project management office (PMO) and project governing committee; often referred as steering committee or project board. Use your best judgment to include people with adequate seniority and positive attitude in the committee. This will greatly enhance the probability of success since willing senior management can influence their department or teams. You should also require
  5. 5. couple of volunteers to act as part time or full time project leaders and PMO members. It can be any one in the middle management who is ready to cooperate and have a requirement to drive his / her team’s activities as projects. During the initial days of the PMO, you should define a detailed Project Life Cycle including all the activities from project initiation to closure. After the life cycle definition, the PMO members have to strengthen the Project Life Cycle by creating templates and standard operating procedures (SOPs). The core responsibilities of the PMO are improving organizational knowledge around structured project management and achieve better predictability and success rate in the projects. While the organization is baby stepping to project management world, the PMO will have more areas to focus like improving project management communication across the organization, creating an organizational project management dictionary and coaching prospective project managers. Most importantly a project tracking and control mechanism should be instituted along with the regular sitting of the steering committee. It is a good practice to start advertising the project metrics in a common dashboard to upper management. These metrics should act as a steering wheel to control the momentum and to identify the areas of improvement. As I mentioned above, the risk in a small organization is the ever changing priorities due to the exponential growth and if not steered properly the whole effort will be pushed to a back seat. In a sense, the metrics will help you to reinforce the management that investment in the project management approach will deliver continued benefits and it will fuel the growth plans. The renowned car racer Bobby Rahal once said “In racing, I wanted to be a winner and to be a winner; you have to be willing to roll the dice.” In today’s feverishly competitive market environment, success means the ability to take calculated risks. Though investing in formal project management methodologies or practices may sound riskier to small organizations, it is surely a dice which you throw to win.
  6. 6. Conclusion It doesn’t matter whether you are a single room organization with no cabins or partition walls or a multimillion conglomerate. Success means nothing but the small day-to-day progress that enables you to carry on. Being in a pigmy world with puny work force enhances small organization’s ability to adapt changes. In that way it would make sense to invest in structured project management methodology while you are small because it would ‘bleed’ less. All that is needed a little bit of passion, commitment and a determined workforce. And it would prove that being small is not a curb if you think bigger!