My company, Project Agency walked away from the contract that was on the table. Train several groups of project managers to ensure that a large number of departmental projects would be delivered.
I met some of the senior managers who were concerned that little or no progress was being made by the project managers. Delivery is too slow; “train them and train them fast” was the message they gave me.
Warning bells rang and I asked a number of questions. I established:
- the project managers reported into the Departmental Management Team of around 8 people
- there were 10 projects each with a project manager however there were no project sponsors
- there was a dotted line relationship with a small departmental group to the Management Team. Upon further questioning, no one could tell me the exact role of this group or the link with the projects underway
- the Director would in the words of people present go ‘walk about’ – he would go to a project manager and change the scope – on the move
Hardly surprising that projects made little or no progress.
I suggested they rethink what was needed and structures and governance issues need to be addressed and quickly before any progress could be made with the project managers. More embarrassed silence. I asked how they felt about this. “We want you to train our project managers,” was the response.
Sometimes, you have to be up front and tell people how it is. I said that the training would make a difference however the real focus should be on what we had ‘discovered’ in the meeting.
You could feel the meeting go downhill from there.
I said that I would not be prepared to train the project managers first. There was some interesting tension in the room and I even suggested holding a two hour session with SMT but this was a lost cause….
I never heard from this potential client again. The lessons of that meeting some 8 years ago have remained with me and I have used them many times since then:
• the structure for delivering projects should be as simple as possible. Management of projects by committee as in this case does not work
• project management roles need to be clear and this includes levels of authority
• training of senior managers is as important as training project managers and project team members and in some cases (such as the one quoted) more important
• you can have all the project management methodologies in the world however nothing beats straight forward common sense!
Why not take a look at your project management structures. How effective are they to supporting delivery of projects? If they do not support project management then its action time!