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:
- What are the basic project management mechanisms to implement projects in the private sector? This is the topic of this article, and
- 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.
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.
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
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.
- 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