I may need to set up a little background for this concept to actually make sense to anyone but me. If you ever owned a Ford Fiesta (the American version back in the late 70’s, not the new one still made in Germany), then you might get this. I bought mine actually when it was 12 years old – in 1990 – as a car to drive back and forth to work. It was my first – and only – manual transmission car and it didn’t look very good (definitely not as good as the stock photo to the right, though mine was yellow), but it served its purpose. Great gas mileage, reliable most of the time, and cheap. Plus, I could work on it myself because the engine compartment was fairly simple. I replaced a fuel pump for the first – and only time – on it. I replaced a starter. I replaced a lot of things, which is probably why it’s a good thing I no longer own it, but it definitely served its purpose while I had it.
So where am I going with this? How is a 1978 Ford Fiesta like project management? Well, it isn’t, unless you simplify it enough. Like my RealPM book that I now plan to have completed and available in early 2011 as my time frees up a little after the holidays – a project management methodology or practice should be well laid out and easy to follow. It doesn’t have to be difficult – it doesn’t even have to be based in detail on the PMI structure. What it does need to do is equip project managers with the processes and tools they need to successfully lead their projects and serve their customers. How do we get to that point – especially if my book isn’t available yet?
Generally, just stick to the basics….
The PMO creates templates that will generally work for all projects
This means, create document shells, project schedule shells, status report shells, etc. that will fit most needs. Then, when you’ve sent your project managers out into the field to lead projects you know you’re presenting a consistent process to all of your customers. It may need tweaking from time to time, but giving your project managers a basis for success helps them to continue that success from project to project. Otherwise, you’re leaving your project successes to luck….bad call.
The PMO sets up policies that are simple and make sense
Equipping our project managers with simple processes that makes leading their project teams easier because their team members know and understand what is expected of them will give all projects and project teams a greater chance for success. And simple, successful PM processes lead to great customer satisfaction as well. Customers are not always the biggest fans of project management and sometimes look at the PM as unnecessary overhead that they are paying for. Keep things simple and let the project manager do his job as a strong customer-facing resource.
Support the PMO and PM practice from the top down
Leading projects is hard enough. Make sure your senior management is behind the practice and is visible to the customer. Make sure senior management comes to the aid of the PMO when necessary and lets the customer know that this is how we lead projects….successfully. It will go miles in winning customers back for repeat business when they know everyone is behind the projects that they are paying for.
Project management doesn’t have to be an exact science – it doesn’t have to be a science at all. It can be, but especially for smaller organizations and startups just having something solid in place with a few good PMs will say a lot about where you’re going as an organization. You’ll build employee confidence in the processes and build customer satisfaction as they begin to see project successes come out of your organization.