Project structure; it killed the project

I did not like what I saw and heard!

I had been asked if I would train a group of professional managers who were tasked with delivering some key business projects. According to my contact, “these people are struggling to deliver their projects.”

I asked to meet with a few of the project managers to check out needs in more detail – “struggling” does not give much information on which you can design a practical project management course!

Project maturity very low

I found:

• project managers and their team members had received little or no project management training and they wanted some support
• there was no direct project sponsor for each project
• the overall project management organisational structure looked complex and if it reflected what I had been told then I feared for the delivery of all the projects

I then spoke with a few of the senior managers to get their view of needs.

Complex project governance – but no one realises or wants to act

I then started to discuss project governance asking them to describe the overall structure of decision making for the project. I was able to clarify my thoughts by drawing a structure chart (see below) which they agreed with. I then asked a variety of questions which identified that:

• there was little difference between the senior management team and the project team. Senior managers sat on both groups with one or two ‘interested parties’ – sometimes the client- sometimes simply ‘interested parties!’

• decision making for projects was made at both the senior management team meetings and project team meetings – it was hard to differentiate which group made which decisions and the criteria for making them was unclear. Ultimate decision making (authority) was not clear

• (my apologies to our Australian readers) I was told by senior managers and project managers that the Director went walkabout – he would go around and give direction (change!) on the project to project managers and sometimes to team members

Time for some tough talking!

Project management training AND project governance restructuring needed

I told my client that while training would make a difference to project delivery, at the same time that the training was underway the overall structure of project management needed to be addressed. I suggested that one without the other would not help delivery of projects. My client went quiet, very quiet.

After further discussion, I suggested that the best way forward was for me to speak with the whole management team or for him to do it. After this we would be able to treat the whole activity as a project. This was my way of forcing some activity.

He agreed…..and guess what, I was not surprised when I never heard directly from him again. In one call to him, he said that all they wanted to do was train the project managers and leave aside the issue of governance. I told him that I was not prepared to train project managers without governance issues being addressed. No response.

I walked away!

Poor project structures really killed the project

Sometimes, just sometimes as a consultant it does not pay to take on an assignment. The results expected by my client would not have been achieved and if the patient does not want to help themselves…what can I do? Ultimately, what killed the assignment was the project structure. Simply too complex and as for going walkabout…..

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