What are the basic PM mechanisms to implement projects in private sector?

I have recently been corresponding with a colleague on project management and how to apply project management in the not-for-profit / non-governmental-organizations (NGO) environment. This colleague is a professor of public administration in a North American university and has interested in NGO and whether NGO can enhance their effectiveness if they use proper project management practices.

Our correspondence led to two questions:

  1. What are the basic project management mechanisms to implement projects in the private sector? This is the topic of this article, and
  2. Focusing on the NGO sector, what project management mechanisms should be used? In other words, lets talk about the process of project development (from initiation through implementation to termination) … this would be a future article

How to implement project management in the private sector?

In my views, project management skills are critical for all aspects of life and organizations, whether public, private, not-for-profit / NGO.

Although the principles of project management are universal and applies to all sectors, there are variations that are necessary due to the change in the project’s environment.

However, the variations on how to apply project management apply even from one domain to another within the private sector; and applies whether we are dealing with large organizations or SME (Small and Medium Enterprises).

We have even seen variations within the same organization, from one division to another.

To better answer the question – we would need to address these points:

  • Current practices
  • Applying basic project management to organizations that might be new to project management with a focus on managing single projects, and
  • Applying project management as an organizational project management approach.

Current practices

Many organizations that are new to project management, might start managing projects by assigning their management to accidental project managers. These are qualified professionals but in certain functions or disciplines and not experienced or trained in project management. Therefore, the accidental project managers depend on common sense and their technical skills to manage projects. This practice lead to “sink or swim” situations and can be quite damaging to the individuals and organizations (please refer to articles on the concept of accidental project manager on our blog). However, this practice is not always bad since we could have a few stars and their work lead to successful projects but this is the exception rather than the rule.

Starting to apply proper project management for single projects

Now, as these organizations start to accept or recognize some value in project management they might allow project management training. Here is another challenge, some individuals and organizations jump to certifications believing a credential like PRINCE2 or PMP are the holy grail for managing projects; only to experience disappointment later.

Even if the organizations provide good training, which would be good, we can expect some project managers will do well. With good people and training on how to manage projects one can expect organizations to do OK (Fair) or if we use a maturity index on a scale of 1 to 5 maybe they reach 1 (up from zero).

The bottom line:

  •  Accidental project management results in mixed results and possibly more failures than success 
  • Too much focus on training and especially certification training is better than nothing but experience shows this is not enough … especially that the trained individuals are not empowered to improve the SYSTEM
  • Then what is the answer? A project management methodology might help but again not outside the system.

The organizational system for proper project management

In our views, and professional opinion, we need a focus on the organizational system such as what we present in this graph.

the seven elements of project management maturity

The Seven Elements of Project Management Maturity

This graph is our own work (possibly my summer project to put into a draft book). We call this the Seven Elements of Project Management Maturity (The 7Es™) but it is designed not to emphasis maturity assessment but to build and sustain the project management organizational system. You can find more information on this approach on http://sukadway.sukad.com/ and on a prior blog post.

The inner elements can help an organization move from 0 or 1 on maturity scale to 2 or 2.5. This is an opinion and we cannot back it up with scientific evidence yet. To achieve a level 3 or more on the maturity scale (5 being a true center of excellence) would require the effective implementation of the outer circles. Please click here to download a the full model with brief description of each element.

The general idea is that organizations need:

  • A method – a project life span approach,  such as per our CAM2P Model
  • Processes (such as what the PMBOK offers), and
  • Competence elements (such as from IPMA or GAPPS),
  • along with the other elements.

If the organization does not implement the proper system, the complete system, then it would be hard for them to achieve higher level of project management maturity, which translates into consistency and enhanced performance — including the organization bottom line.

Closing Comments

  • Education and training are not enough and some do not understand this
  • Methods are not enough
  • Certifications are not enough
  • We need the system – a system thinking approach with a focus on strategic aspects
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  • Cendrella

    This comment is By CGN & Associates on LinkedIn:

    All projects are initiated to achieve an objective by performing certain set of activities (scope) at specified time, cost with certain assumptions and constraints. It’s a standard practice to create a well defined project plan by identifying the right stakeholders and creating a time plan, cost plan and a communication plan. So, ensure the allocated budget for the project is made available and keep a constant watch on organizational changes, if any. Change in stakeholders can create positive or negative influence in the project and this challenge has to be mitigated by the PM’s (stakeholder management plan).Implementation of the above mentioned PM mechanisms will help you to achieve the project with success and these basic mechanisms are sector independent (can be used in government sector as well as in private sector)

  • this comment is BY: S. Randall Westcott on LinkedIn:

    You bring out some great points here. I like the idea of the “maturity model”. My experience, particularly in the organizations that are new to the concept of project management, is a lack of support for the process. Too often organizations hire good project managers who create great plans but the project falls short of success because the project manager is left to run the project in a vacuum simply reporting on the progress, or lack thereof.
    Is there proper monitoring in place? If so are the monitors in a position to recognize a problem in the operation of the project before it derails the project? What is the escalation process? Is/are the parties to whom an issue is escalated prepared to address and resolve the issue in a timely manner? Does the project have the correct management attention? Is the reporting process properly structured? (never let anyone get between you and your customer!) These are just a few of the questions that need to be answered before the project begins.

    • Mr. Westcott

      Thank you for the comment, kind words, and contributions.

      You raise many good questions in your post and these are at the heart of the matters. The challenge here is how to educate the whole organization, including sponsors and executives, on the value of project management?

    • This comment is by William Woloschuk on LinkedIn:

      hi Randall, I’d agree with you especially the part about “PM is left to run the project in a vacuum” is right on. When your talking about accomplishing something important whereby your Organization is going to gain some “competitive advantage” over the competition..you need the visibility and support directly from the CEO/President to ensure all resources and Project Team are following your direction as the PM. If Project Management is totally new to your Company, you don’t need to necessarily follow the “10 Commandments” of what PMI provides, but at least follow a Plan of action to ensure the End-User Community, and Sr. Management are in agreement of what’s taking place. Don’t be involved in ‘just another failed project’ when everyone stands
      on the sidelines and seems to be to busy to engage, participate in a collaborative
      working environment.

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