How committed to project management is your organisation? Donna Fitzgerald, one of the analysts at Gartner who spoke at the PPM and IT Governance Summit earlier this month, talked about what makes a ‘project culture’ – an environment in which projects succeed.
I thought this was interesting, as many companies say they are committed to project success without (in my opinion) putting in place everything that they need to do in order to actually get project success.

Let’s have a quick look at the 9 factors that the Gartner research says make up a project culture.

1. Results orientation

This isn’t a surprise, is it? If you want projects to succeed, you need everyone to be focused on results. Plodding along doing the same old thing won’t cut it – you should all be forward facing and aligned towards meeting the business objectives.
Results orientation also means tracking projects to ensure that they are on target to deliver the expected benefits.

2. Interpersonal relationships

Good project cultures have good relationships between team members at all levels. That’s from the sponsor and other executives down to the project co-ordinator who takes the minutes or sorts out your meeting room bookings. Projects rely on teams to get things done and predominantly the role of the project manager is to manage people.
Without good working relationships you’ll find it difficult to deliver projects successfully, but I don’t expect that comes as news to you.

3. Stakeholder commitment

Are the stakeholders really committed to building a project delivery organisation? Do they really care and are they invested in creating an environment where projects will succeed? If they aren’t that bothered, then it’s clear that the results won’t be as good as in a business where everyone from the senior stakeholders downwards believes in projects as the way to deliver change.

4. Conflict tolerance

Conflict on projects can be difficult to manage. My own research into causes of conflict on projects shows that it is caused by lots of different things. However, that doesn’t mean that you can shy away from it. As a project manager, and as an organisation focused on delivering projects successfully, you should be able to tolerate the uncomfortable bits of projects and deal with any conflict.
Of course, sometimes conflict is good, so avoiding it completely can stop you facing situations where you and the team actually come up with some creative solutions.

5. Team emphasis

Projects work well with teams – you can’t do a project by yourself (or it would be very rare to in most companies). So a successful organisation has to have a team focus. That means not working in silos and breaking down barriers between departments for the good of the project.

6. Discipline

Discipline, structure, governance. Call it what you prefer, but the point here is that a project culture is a process-led, structured culture with management oversight and disciplined staff.

7. Risk orientation

Projects involve a level of risk, so knowing how to handle risks is essential. A good project culture will embrace the challenges of risk management and support staff in taking calculated risks. Remember that risks can be positive as well so there could be benefits to be gained from exploiting project risk.

8. Interdependence

Project cultures aren’t distinct from the overall organisational culture. A business strong in project delivery probably has plenty of interdependent teams: they all understand how they fit together and how the operational and support teams have a critical part to play on projects and in managing project deliverables to achieve the benefits.

9. Learning

Finally, a good project culture supports learning for all staff. That’s formal and informal: proper training in processes and techniques but also the informal learning that comes from doing something a bit wrong and getting it better next time. It also means learning together as a business about how to do projects right, and tweaking your processes and methods until you find the perfect fit.