Three Pillars of Project Management
I continually research project management “success factors” – those things successful projects do better than other projects. If success was just about getting a project management certification, I would think there would be a correlation between the increase in project management certifications and an increase in successful projects. I contend we are getting better at delivering successful projects, however, I feel there are still major obstacles in being successful.
In compiling this list of project management success factors, including looking at why projects failed (with the rational they failed because they did not use /apply that particular activity), there seems to be three broad groupings / categories. I call these my “Three Pillars of Project Management.” The pillars provide the foundation for successful project management. Another analogy would be the three legs of project management. In both scenarios, take any one away and the project fails.
There are several “layers” of requirements. It begins with project goals and objectives that are well articulated and achievable. These should be found in a business case that provides the strategic need for the project. It should provide a justification for the project based on business requirements and expected benefits. These goals and objectives should encompass stakeholder expectations and have executive management support. This will help determine the feasibility of success based on the customer’s needs.
The business requirements are decomposed into technical and performance requirements. These need to be clear and unambiguous. From these the detailed specifics of the product or service to be delivered are elicited and identified. The requirements must be testable to verify clarity and feasibility and traceable to assess the impacts of any changes. Through testing of requirements you can ensure the project will meet the business needs. User involvement helps identify the “need” from “nice to have” requirements, ensures customer satisfaction and helps avoid scope creep.
Processes include the work, tools, and techniques used to manage the project – the contents of PMI’s PMBOK® Guide. The key is to put the right processes with the rigor necessary for the size, strategic importance, complexity, and risks of the project. There are two key processes. One is planning and controls. To be effective with planning and control processes is to understand the constraints on the project – the trade space necessary for effective decision making. It starts with a Work Breakdown Structure that details 100% of the scope. Then valid and realistic cost and time estimates are developed, performance baselines are established, and deliverables and milestones are clearly documented. Effective controls involve establishing performance measurements and monitoring the accomplishment of project objectives throughout the life of the project.
The other key process is risk management – realistic, proactive, and anticipatory in the identification and management of threats and opportunities to project objectives. It can be as easy as asking “what is going to prevent me from getting this done?” Or it can be rigorous to include assumption testing, root cause analysis, and Monte Carlo simulations. Regardless of the rigor, the process has to incorporate stakeholder risk tolerances.
The last leg, and arguably the most import, is people. After all, they deliver projects. Resources are needed to do the work and manage the work – resources with the right skills and knowledge that are adequate for the needs of the project, starting with the project manager. They are dependent usually on organizational processes or informal networks of relationships.
Resources need to be formed into a performing team in order to effectively delivery the project. It starts with leadership skills of the project manager. This includes the “soft skills” like communication, business acumen, and change management – with a greater focus on understanding customer and stakeholder requirements and constraints, customer relationship management skills are essential.
These are my three pillars of project management, as I see them, that provide the foundation to successful delivery of projects. What do you think? What would you add or remove?