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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 are not immune to poor delivery. Development of Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner, for example, suffered numerous delays and required an exceptional amount of rework, costing the company more than US$32 billion according to one press report.1

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 is unlikely to address the problem satisfactorily. In addition, it produces expert yet frustrated project managers who still struggle with their company’s organisation, systems and unchanged culture.

Consistent success in project delivery is achieved only when the entire culture of a company is changed to support project delivery capability and when all aspects of the organisation are focused on project performance goals.

There are four steps your company can take to support excellence in project delivery:

Develop a structure that supports project delivery

The clear roles and accountabilities defined for the company’s overall organisational structure also need to be defined for programme and project delivery organisations. This allows project roles to be filled throughout the entire project lifecycle. In addition, in a matrix organisation, project accountabilities need to be defined as line accountabilities to ensure that the organisation as a whole supports the project delivery, therefore greatly increasing the likelihood of project success.

Motivate your people

A career as a project manager needs to be attractive in your company. Ensure project managers are regarded positively by investing in them and training them not just in PM but also in leadership. 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 different levels of experience and awarding the title of project director to its best project managers.

Sharpen processes and tools

While many companies invest in introducing PM standards and toolsets, there are two vital processes that are often neglected: resource management and the appraisal process. Companies that deliver projects well put a transparent resource management process at the heart of their operations as well as ensuring that the employee appraisal process reflects employees’ performance in relation to projects as a matter of routine.

Re-align your systems

Management Information Systems are typically designed to deliver figures indicating the company’s financial performance and are usually aligned with the business unit structure, but they must also provide the information that project managers need. This not only frees up time for project managers to get on with project delivery, it also gives the company an overview of the actual performance of all projects underway.

PA has significant experience in helping companies to improve their project delivery performance. For example, we have helped a key supplier in the aerospace sector redefine its project organisation, delivering more efficient use of resources, skills and knowledge across sites and functions and better planning of project workload and resources to prevent 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 over 120%.

1 Seattle Times. 24 September, 2011.

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