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Project management –an ecosystem not a function

By Mike Saville, Programme and Project Management Consultant and PRINCE2® consultant with the ILX Group. | 15 July 2015

Successful programme and project management is a complicated and organic process. It is an ecosystem that needs intelligent design if it is to come to fruition, aided by the warmth and light of good

leadership, fertilised by effective project management. Sending people on box ticking training courses will provide them with some of the skills they need but these will not have an impact except as part of a project management ecosystem.

Project management training will not bear fruit unless it is embedded into an organisation that knows what it wants out of training. Too often people come back from a training session fired up by new techniques but they are not quite sure how to apply them. The organisation must set a very clear vision for what it wants to achieve and expect consistency in project management behaviours. HR departments, performance management and resource teams may all have a part to play in defining and building a project management ecosystem that works for you. An effective way to manage all these stakeholders can be to set up a programme management office (PMO) to provide performance management and monitoring for projects. The PMO houses a squad of senior project managers championing the new project framework as well as mentoring less experienced colleagues. Creating a separate unit helps to emphasise project and programme management as a distinct culture.

To extend the ecosystem metaphor, some plants need to go in a greenhouse to harden them for planting in the garden while other plants can get by with benevolent neglect. It is important to identify whether your organisation is a hardy perennial or a wilting lily. The Portfolio, Programme, and Project Management Maturity Model (P3M3®) owned by Axelos is a useful tool for gauging the hardiness or maturity of the organisation and can help to establish the right ecosystem that will enable projects to flourish. Once the ecosystem is in place it is important to cultivate it. Realistically, you won’t get it right first time so you will need to modify, develop and adapt your framework to respond to circumstances. While it is important to be consistent and stick to the framework where possible – that is what frameworks are there for after all – there will always be exceptions to rules.

Achieving effective project management is about so much more than closing knowledge gaps and training people up in systems and methodologies. That is just the start and must be underpinned by the ability to assess the organisation’s maturity and align development to the organisation’s needs.

To find out more project management ecosystem click here.

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