Achieving excellence in project delivery: why transforming the organisation is the key

Project activity is increasing as companies seek to get to market faster, lower their cost base and deliver their products more effectively. As a result, good business performance increasingly depends on effective project delivery.

However, getting project delivery right is difficult, and even major companies aren’t immune to poor delivery. Development of Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner, for example, suffered at least seven delays and cost at least US$12 billion, 120 per cent more than budgeted.

Many companies fail to achieve excellence in project delivery because they focus excessively or even exclusively on project management (PM) standards and processes.

As this approach only addresses one aspect of poor project delivery, it’s unlikely to make a real difference. In addition, it produces expert yet frustrated project managers who struggle with their company’s unchanged structure, systems and culture.

Companies can only get consistent success in project delivery when the entire organisation changes to support project delivery and focus on project performance goals. We call this organisational agility, and our research shows it drives market-leading performance.

There are four aspects of organisational agility that support excellence in project delivery:

Develop a structure that supports project delivery

When it comes to project delivery, designing simple structures is about defining clear roles and accountabilities like those that are in place for the company’s overall organisational structure. This makes it easy to fill project roles throughout the project lifecycle. And, in a matrix organisation, you should define project accountabilities as line accountabilities to ensure the organisation supports the project delivery, greatly increasing the likelihood of project success.

Motivate your people

A career as a project manager needs to be attractive in your company. So, invest in them. Train them in project management and leadership. And liberate them so they have the power to make decisions. There should be a direct link between project managers’ pay and the quality of their project work, and they should have a clear career path. Siemens, for example, has a clear career path for project managers, acknowledging various levels of experience and awarding the title of project director to its best project managers.

Sharpen processes and tools

While many companies invest in project management standards and tools, there are two vital processes they often neglect: resource management and the appraisal process. Investing in these areas speeds up time to value by focussing efforts. Companies that deliver projects well put a transparent resource management process at the heart of their operations and ensure the employee appraisal process reflects performance in relation to projects.

Re-align your systems

Your systems must evolve with the changing world. Yet Management Information Systems typically only deliver financial performance figures and align with the business unit structure. Modern systems should also provide the information project managers need. This frees up time for project managers to get on with project delivery and gives the company an overview of the actual performance of all current projects.

We’ve helped countless companies improve their project delivery performance. For example, we worked with a key supplier in the aerospace sector to redefine its project organisation. This delivered more efficient use of resources, skills and knowledge across sites and functions, and better planning of project workload and resources that prevents time slippages and work overload. These benefits, combined with a process to identify loss-making projects at an early stage, have increased project profitability by more than 120 per cent.

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