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Combining value and project management into an effective programme management model

Abstract

In this paper, I will suggest that the current Programme Management paradigm is strictly performance-based. I will aim to demonstrate that there is a need for both a performance and a learning process in the management of programmes. Following this demonstration, I will suggest that value management can be combined with project management to form an integrated learningperformance programme management model. I will further develop this concept by identifying some specific methods and techniques which can be used to implement such a model. I will also recommend the iterated application of the model, throughout the programme life cycle from strategic choice, to business objectives and feasibility, through planning and appraisal, and finally termination.

1. An emerging paradigm in programme management

There are a number of definitions of programme management; most of them, by organisations that are heavily into project management like PMI (Project Management Institute), APM (Association for Project Management) or CCTA (Central Computer and Telecommunications Agency). All these definitions have both, things in common and differences. The main common points are that programmes usually cover a group of projects; that their management must be coordinated; and that they create a synergy, which will generate greater benefits than projects could do individually.

The main differences are: the fact that they also cover ongoing operations (PMI [1]); that the elements must have a common objective (APM [2]) and the fact that their impact is at the organisational level and concerns change (CCTA [3]).

Ruth Murray-Webster and I [4] have tried to integrate those three elements in our definition: A collection of change actions (projects and operational activities) purposefully grouped together to realise strategic and/or tactical benefits. The concept of purposefulness is related to the objectives, which need to be defined; the word actions, refers to ongoing operations, as well as projects; and the benefits can be both strategic or tactical, but are always measured at organisational level.

1.1. The current programme paradigm

Roland Gareis [5] of the University of Vienna, affirms that any project lasting longer than 2 years should be called a programme; a number of project managers, like Gareis, associate programmes with large projects. Other authors associate it to multi-project co-ordination or portfolio management, which is often associated with resource management; [6] or account-client management; this view is also emphasised by Programme Management computer software, which is essentially designed to support resource management, planning and cost/time control.

Another view is that of Becker [7], Pellegrinelli [8], Reiss [9] and Bartlett [10] who link programmes with organisational change, often IT-based. Although a number of programmes are about change. Even those who advocate that programmes are more than just large projects and need to address strategic benefits, still promote
a project paradigm to run programmes. For example, the recently developed Programme Management Maturity Model (PMMM) [11] points out that most organisations still consider organisation, issues and risk, planning and accounts and finance as key to the success of programmes, whereas achievement of benefits, stakeholders management, communications and configuration management seem less important. Partington [12] cites studies by Wateridge [13] and Pinto and Millet [14], to emphasise the fact that failures in large IT/IS projects are due to a failure to address people issues. By concentrating only on performance issues, organisations are missing a key element of success.

The concepts of learning organisations and management of emergent change stem from the works of leading strategic management authors like Mintzberg et al. [15], Weick [16], Senge [17] or Porter [18]. Currently, the concept of learning, including knowledge management, and the capability to integrate and transform itself are key elements of successful organisations, programme management still ignores them.

Thiry [19] and Weick [16] (and similarly Daft and Lengel) have made a clear distinction between uncertainty and ambiguity/equivocality. Uncertainty is defined by the difference between the data required and the data already possessed; it is a lack of information. Ambiguity, on the other hand, means the existence of multiple and conflicting interpretations; it is linked to confusion and lack of understanding. Whereas uncertainty leads to the acquisition of objective information and the answering of specific questions, ambiguity leads to sensemaking, the exchange of views and the definition of situations/problems.

Generally, organisation, planning and cost management are key elements of uncertainty reduction, as well as risk management, which has become a key process in the new PMBOK# Guide. Benefits, stakeholders, and communications are softer issues, linked with the reduction of ambiguity, which project managers still do not apply explicitly Configuration management, as currently stated, is about the product, not the process, project managers traditionally direct a process and do not feel responsible for configuration beyond delivering what was asked. Go ro g and Smith [20], argue that proponents of the current project (performance-based) paradigm concentrate on describing tools and techniques, rather than, when to use the most appropriate for the situation, as do Thomas et al. [21].

I would therefore argue that the current programme paradigm is a performance paradigm. It is about clear objectives and deliverables and robust control techniques embedded in an uncertainty-reduction process of
plan-execute-control with which Winch et al. [22] have already associated to projects.

1.2. The emerging programme paradigm

Go ro g and Smith [20], who advocate the use of PM in strategy implementation of organisations, imply that
project management needs to move towards a more strategic-oriented paradigm, or as Thomas et al. [21] put
it: promise-centric values (rather than product-centric). They argue that this new paradigm involves: a cycle
which encompasses both strategic objectives and strategic benefits evaluation; the development of a methodological background in addition to tools; and taking into account of the interrelatedness of projects. I would argue, that programme management can provide those, but only if it encompasses a strategic decision perspective, which is ambiguous and complex; fundamental and organisation-wide and has long-term implications (Johnson & Scholes [23]).

Wijnen and Kor [24] write that a programme strives for the achievement of a number of, sometimes conflicting,
aims and has a broader corporate goal than projects, which aim to achieve single predetermined results. Go ro g and Smith [20], argue that strategic management is based on the continuous re-formulation and is a form of continuous adjustment, whereas projects concentrate on achieving one single particular result within set time and cost constraints. Partington [12] argues that programmes require integration across strategic levels, controlled flexibility, team-based structures and especially, an organisational learning perspective, which is able to accept paradox and uncertainty. Murray-Webster and Thiry [4] advocate a vision, which includes mechanisms to identify and manage emergent change; they use an idea developed by Hurst [25] to promote the concept of a learning loop,
which completes the performance loop.

These concepts must be supported by an ambiguityreduction process that needs to take place before any attempt is made at uncertainty reduction (Fig. 1). It is supported by: learning, value management, sensemaking, information sharing, group decision support and shared construction of statements. In management, this process uses a range of soft methodologies and techniques like stakeholder analysis, functional analysis, ideation-creativity-innovation, soft systems analysis and others.

Additionally, in the current organisational context and culture, of e-business and accelerated change, managers are required to process a large flow of often-contradictory information in a short time. Programme managers, in particular, are caught right between the ambiguous, soft, fuzzy realm of strategic management and the concrete, hard place of implementation. They have to deal with both high ambiguity and high uncertainty at the same time.

relationship in change situations

Fig. 1. The uncertaintyambiguity relationship in change situations

Decision-making and change situations often mean that multiple stakeholders, with conflicting needs and expectations, are competing with each other. The expectations need to be brought out in he open and discussed (Kirk [26]), stakeholders need to make sense of the situation (Weick [16]) and construct a shared understanding of it (Thiry [19]) before they can progress towards an agreed decision. It is a context where the aim is to identify and understand needs and expectations and reduce ambiguity through negotiation before attempting to use any kind of uncertainty-reduction process.

To be adopted by progressive organisations, thriving in a complex, continually changing environment, a programme management paradigm would require to include both a learning, and a performance loop; to address both uncertainty-reduction and ambiguityreduction. Murray-Webster and Thiry [4] have described this integrated process as the programme eco-cycle, which Thiry [27,28] has later called a Decision Management Cycle (Fig. 2).

2. The proposed model

The model developed in this paper acknowledges that there are deliberate (or planned) strategies and emergent (or unplanned) strategies [29].

Projects are triggered by a conscious decision to undertake an action; they are based on clear, welldefined objectives and deliverables; they are a deliberate strategy. The project management process is initiated with a high level of uncertainty at the beginning (high assumptions/facts ratio); it then uses tools and techniques like work breakdown, risk analysis and planning, followed by quality, time and cost control. All those methods are designed to accelerate the knowledge of the project situation through information gathering and simulation; they are aimed at the reduction of uncertainty.

But, deliberate strategy is just the part of the process that takes place after a decision has been made. The emergent inputs, which will trigger the need for change, should also concern the programme manager; whether they are a simple adjustment in a project parameters, or whether it is the circumstances that initiate a whole new series of actions. The learning loop addresses the processes required to manage both the emergent inputs and the decision-making process leading to its resolution.

programme management cycle model

Fig. 2. The integrated programme management cycle model.

As stated earlier, project management processes cover only the implementation part of the strategy process. There are three other important elements in strategy management, which need to be taken into account; they are: (1) the making of the decision itself; (2) the appraisal of its benefit during implementation and; (3) the changes that may influence its execution. These changes will be triggered by either emergent inputs or the failure to achieve the stated benefits. It does not matter whether it is a strategic, portfolio or incremental programme; these principles still apply.

2.1. The learning loop

Some theorists associate learning purely to the acquisition of knowledge. Bramley [30] defines it as acquiring the ability to behave in new kinds of ways. In Chinese learning literally means study and practice constantly (in Senge [17]); finally Nevis, Di Bella and Gould [31] define learning as the capacity or processes [. . .] to maintain or improve performance based on experience. The Society of Learning defines it as:

. . .individual and collective capabilities to understand complex, interdependent issues; engage in reflective, generative conversation; and nurture personal and shared aspirations. (The Society for Organizational Learning (SoL) [32]) In the context of this paper, learning will be defined as: the capability to self-assess and feedback to improve and innovate and consider that there is both a social process and a need for improvement involved in learning.

The learning cycle of programmes cannot be based on the same principles as the performance cycle; time, focus, decision and leadership take different dimensions. Whereas, once a decision has been made, implementation time should be as short as possible, as it becomes a success factor; more time is required for the interaction leading to the decision. Whereas planning and execution must be rational, analytical and efficient, the process leading to decision making will rely more on sensemaking and intuition, it will require innovation and creativity.

Leadership, during the performance cycle is more deliberate, during the learning cycle; leadership requires a more consultative approach. In the performance cycle, the project needs to be broken down into work packages, and roles and responsibilities clearly allocated so that resources can be focused on simple specific tasks without questioning. In the learning cycle, the same resources will need a holistic approach of the project in order to be able to identify a wide range of opportunities; the project has to be viewed as a system of complex interactions to which everybody can contribute.

2.2. Value management and learning

I personally believe Value Management (VM) can offer programme managers the tools and techniques that are missing in project management to tackle the learning loop of the programme cycle. As Kaufman [33] stated: The problem with most problem-solving disciplines [. . .] is that they assume that the stated problem is the real problem; VM is a problem identification, as well as a problem-solving, methodology.

The new VM Standard (BSEN-12973:2000) states that: Value lies in achieving a balance between the satisfaction of many differing needs and the resources used in doing so. The fewer resources used or the greater the satisfaction of need, the greater is the value. It also continues: Value Management integrates the operational managers efforts with those of higher management [. . .] by concentrating objectively on outcomes which are in line with overall corporate objectives,
in preference to local or short-term priorities. These are exactly the requirements bestowed upon the programme manager by the proponents of a new paradigm. The standard describes a number of tools and techniques which can be applied in the following steps

A Value Management study involves the application of one or more methods to a specific subject [. . .]. The Value Management study will, regardless of the level at which the study is being undertaken, follow the sequence set out [. . .] below:

a) define the objective(s) of the [. . .] study in relation to the [. . .] Policy and Programme ;

b) identify the methods and the supporting processes needed to achieve the objectives and select the teams (see note 1) [. . .];

c) identify the functions which are essential to achieve the objectives and which together will result in the objective being attained;

d) identify how to measure changes in performance and use of resources;

e) set targets for performance and use of resources for each of the functions identified above in the most effective manner for the organisation as a whole;

f) apply the methods and supporting processes to identify innovative ways of achieving the targets;

g) select and validate proposals for improvement;

h) implement the proposals which have been chosen by the decision maker;

i) monitor and measure the outcomes and compare with targets;

j) feed back results for continuous improvement [. . .].

Note 1: In programme management, this would mean to identify the stakeholders.

In line with the decision management model, I have grouped points (a), (c), (d) and (e) under sensemaking; (b) and (f), under ideation and (g) under evaluation. Point (h) is partly the actual decision and, with (i) and (j) part of the performance loop review and change processes.

2.3. Sensemaking

The first premise of good programme management is to fully understand stakeholder needs and expectations.
Sensemaking has been described by a number of authors. Louis [34] described it as: a recurring cycle comprised of a sequence of events occurring over time. The cycle begins as individuals form unconscious and conscious anticipations and assumptions, which serve as predictions about future events. (p. 241). Weick [16] suggests that sensemaking is partially under the control of expectations; it is an interpretive process. As for myself (Thiry [19]), I summarised it as a system of
interactions between different actors who are [. . .] building a collective understanding of a situation, developing a strategic model of the intervention and defining a shared [. . .] desired outcome.

In ambiguous situations, Quinn [35] advocates what he calls: good conversation. It can be associated to sensemaking and requires the following features:

issues-oriented, focusing on specific problems and alternative courses of action; rational, meaning intelligible, reasonable and well argued; imaginative in the sense that they encourage open social interaction and; honest in that inputs must be true and agreed outputs honored.

Sensemaking is triggered by expectations: beliefs or assumptions about the future [25], and the realisation that the current situation is inconsistent with this vision. Stakeholders then need to enter a sensemaking process, which, in the context of organisations, I [19] have defined as an individual process grounded in social interaction. In the paper, Sensemaking in Value Management [19], I have described how VM can provide the methodology to achieve positive sensemaking and, ultimately, agreement on the benefits, success factors and objectives of a solution to a complex situation.

2.3.1. Functional analysis (FA)

Specifically, I have recommended the use of FA as a technique to achieve positive sensemaking. The VM Standard states that: FA is an essential component for quantifying value and is therefore at the heart of the VM approach, at any strategic or technical level. [36]. It states that a function expresses the effect of a product (see note 2) or of one of its constituents and is accompanied by performance indications (see note 3) (levels and flexibilities).

Note 2: a product describes both goods and/or services.

Note 3: performance indications corresponds to key performance indicators

Go ro g and Smith [20], describe functions as that which has to be provided by the project results during the operating phase. FA, is used to:

  • identify the functions of a product, a system or an organisation;
  • quantify the performances to be reached;
  • [. . .] improve communication between those involved in the definition, design and development
    of the product. (CEN36)

Note that, in a programme environment, functions can be expressed as benefits or objectives.

The FA method requires stakeholders to think in terms of objectives and end results. It also requires an identification of all those who may have particular requirements or expectations with regard to the product: a stakeholder analysis. FA, if well conducted, generally achieves a comprehensive description of the functions and of their relationships, which may be systematically characterised, classified and evaluated [36].

The FA process usually involves the development of a function model, which I have previously called Function Breakdown Structure [37]; it provides a representation of the agreed understanding of the expected functional benefits of the programme by the stakeholders. The FBS, because it classifies functions/benefits/objectives from the more abstract strategic objective [20] to the more concrete project solutions, can become the framework of the programme, in the same way as the WBS is the framework of the project.

2.4. Ideation and evaluation

I will not delve into details concerning those two aspects of the learning loop, only to say that programme managers would apply a creative thinking process, promoted by VM, where creativity, imagination and lateral thinking are to idea generation what evaluation, analysis and vertical thinking are to options appraisal. Creative thinking promotes the alternative use of those two techniques in order to produce a greater quantity of more innovative ideas and apply a
better selection and validation of alternatives. For more information on this process, see Thiry [37]; Kaufmann [33] or CEN [36].

2.5. Review, evaluation, change and feedback process

Once the decision to undertake a programme, supported by a collection of change actions is taken, the programme enters the performance loop.

The latest revision of the EFQM# Excellence Model [38] now includes a learning and innovation loop. Most proponents of the learning/performance paradigm [4,20,24] argue for a continuous re-evaluation or reformulation of the programme, in regards of the achievement of organisational benefits, an inductive (based on emergent inputs) and formative (to improve) type of evaluation/control. This view can be associated with a transformational leadership perspective [39,40], or what Argyris and Schon [41] have called double loop learning. Quinn [35] argues that when the relationship between means and ends is not well defined, control will operate through self organisation and encourage people to speak up and to challenge received wisdom. He sees good conversation as a way to exercise control in
a positive, or should we say, proactive, way and states that whatever perspective is taken, extensive discussion should occur between parties involved in the control process (p. 387).

On the other hand, proponents of the performance paradigm (Bartlett [10]; CCTA [3]; Reiss [9]) argue for a deductive (based on set parameters) and summative (to assess) type of control, based on performance parameters such as time, cost, resources, risks, etc. This perspective is more associated with transactional leadership [39,40], or single loop learning [41]. Quinn [35] defines it as: a warning bell, a signal [. . .] that all is [. . .] not going according to plan leading to a discussion of the causes of deviation from anticipated performance and necessary remedies. (p. 384). I would argue that it is therefore not appropriate to programme management, as it does not allow for the flexibility necessary to
the management of programmes.

2.5.1. Programme appraisal

Programmes are usually long-term processes; most programme management authors advocate, as part of the control process, ongoing re-evaluation of the programme benefits and objectives, as the programmes expected benefits may change over time [3,10,20]. Following the writings of strategic management authors [15,17] who advocate a continuous appraisal/learning process, authors like Partington [12], Murray-Webster and Thiry [4], Wijnen and Kor [24] add the concept of a formal programme appraisal process, the objective of which is to reassess the programmes critical success
factors on a regular basis.

The learning loop of the full programme cycle is therefore repeated at regular intervals. In order to achieve stakeholders satisfaction at the time of delivery [42], it is paramount that a sensemaking process be included at each appraisal phase and that, when change is required, alternatives be sought and evaluated to maximise opportunities throughout the process.

The VM Standard reinforces this concept in stating: The kind of FA and the kind of functions that are worked on may change during the progress of [the programme], beginning with the formalisation of the marketing objectives and ending with the validation of a proposal, which ensures that the reliability and safety necessary for the fulfilment of the objectives will be met. [36]

The programme appraisal can be planned on a regular basis, but allowance must be made for ad hoc learning loops, when required by exceptional circumstances or emergent inputs. The appraisal can typically lead to continuation, re-orientation or termination.

2.5.2. Project reviews

Project, or sponsor, reviews are quite well described in the project management literature [1] under Scope Verification,
Integrated Change Control and Quality Control. They basically consist of evaluating project deliverables in regards of the stated project objectives.

In addition, in the emergent programme management paradigm, it involves assessing those results against the
critical success factors of the programme and, in general, against the organisational benefits, determined by the strategy. These requirements can be met by steps i) and j) of the VM process described above. The use of VM in this instance nables the programme manager to ascertain that the project deliverables are still in line with the programmes expected enefits.A typical stepby- step process would include:

  • reassess critical success factors (CSFs);
  • identify changes in user needs and/or expectations;
  • assess probability-impact of deviation (risk analysis);
  • generate change solutions;
  • analyse value of alternatives:
    • business benefits; critical success factors;
    • cost; time; quality/performance; resources;
    • contractual commitments and contingencies;
    • recommend corrective measures;
  • prepare change requests (if needed).

3. Conclusions

For all those programme managers who believe that programmes are more than just bigger projects or a portfolio of projects, there is a need to acknowledge that the main difference between programmes and projects is the complexity and ambiguity of the issues. As I have demonstrated in this paper, performance-based, uncertainty-reduction project tools and techniques are better suited to deal with complicated, uncertain situations than complex, ambiguous ones.

I have therefore suggested that value management, as defined in the new VM Standard BS EC 12973:2000, can offer the methods and techniques suited to complex and ambiguous situations. I have proposed a programme management model, which integrates a learning/value loop with a performance/project loop to form a full programme management framework. I have also suggested that the learning loop should be part of both project reviews and programme appraisals in order to achieve strategic benefits and stakeholders satisfaction at delivery.

References

[1] PMI. Guide to the PMBOK#. Sylva, NC: Project Management Institute, 2000.
[2] APM. Body of knowledge. In: Dixon M. High Wycombe, UK: Association for Project Management, 2000.
[3] CCTA (Central Computer and Telecommunications Agency) (1999) Guide to programme management HMSO Publications Norwich.
[4] Murray-Webster R, Thiry M. Managing programmes of projects Gower handbook of project management, 3rd edition. In: Turner, Simister, editors. Chapter 3. Aldershot, UK: Gower Publishing, 2000.
[5] Gareis, R. (1999) May the PMBOKTM guide be challenged by a new project management paradigm? Proceedings of the 30th PMI Seminars and Symposium, PMI HQ Publishing, Newton Square, PA.
[6] Patrick (1999) Program ManagementTurning many projects into few priorities with TOC, PMI-99 30th annual seminars and symposiums proceedings, PMI HQ Publishing, Newton Square, PA.
[7] Becker M. Project or program management?, PM Network, Vol.13- No.10. Drexel Hill, PA: PMI Communications, 1999.
[8] Pellegrinelli S. Programme management: organising projectbased change. International Journal of Project Management 1997;15:1419.
[9] Reiss, G. (1996) Programme management demystified, Spon Press, London.
[10] Bartlett J. Managing programmes of business change. Wokingham: Project Manager Today Publications, 1998.
[11] Reiss, G. and Rayner, P. (2001) Programme management maturity model, lecture presented on 22 February through the APM Programme Management SIG.
[12] Partington D. Implementing strategy through programmes of projects Gower handbook of project management, 3rd edition. In: Turner, Simister, editors. Chapter 2. Aldershot, UK: Gower Publishing, 2000.
[13] Wateridge JF. IT projects: a basis for success. International Journal of Project Management 1995;13(3).
[14] Pinto JK, Millet L. Successful information systems implementation: the human side, 2nd Ed. Sylva, NC: Project Management Institute, 1999.
[15] Mintzberg H, Ahlstrand B, Lampel J. Strategy safari. London: Prentice Hall, 1998.
[16] Weick KE. Sensemaking in organizations. London: Sage Publications, 1995.
[17] Senge PM. The fifth disciplinethe art & practice of the learning organization. New York, NY: Currency Doubleday, 1994.

[18] Porter M. Competitive advantage. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1985.
[19] Thiry M. Sensemaking in value management practice. International Journal of Project Management 2001;19 2001:717.
[20] Goro g M, Smith N. Project management for managers. Sylva, NC: Project Management Institute, 1999.
[21] Thomas, J., Delisle, C., Jugdev, K, Buckle, P. (2000) Selling Project Management to Senior Executives: Whats the hook? Project management research at the turn of the millennium: proceedings of PMI Research Conference 2000. PMI HQ Publishing, Newton Square, PA.
[22] Winch G, Usmani A, Edkins A. Towards total project quality: a gap analysis approach. Construction Management and Economics 1998;16:193207.
[23] Johnson G, Scholes K. Exploring corporate strategy (4th Ed.). Hemel Hempstead, UK: Prentice Hall Europe, 1997.
[24] Wijen, G. and Kor, R. (2000) Managing unique assignments. Gower Publishing, Aldershot, UK.
[25] Hurst DK. Crisis and renewal: meeting the challenge of organizational change. Boston: Harvard Business School Press, 1995.
[26] Kirk D. Managing expectations, PM Network, August 2000. Sylva, NC: Project Management Institute, 2000.
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[28] Thiry. M. (2001b) Strategic decision management in organisations: towards an integrative model of decision making and implementation. Unpublished Research, Birkbeck College, London.
[29] Mintzberg H, Waters JA. Of strategies, deliberate and emergent. Strategic Management Journal 1985;6-3:25772.
[30] Bramley P. Evaluating training effectiveness. 2nd Ed. London: McGraw-Hill, 1996.
[31] Nevis, E. C. Di Bella, A. J. and Gould, J. M. (1997) Understanding organizations as learning systems. The Society for Organizational Learning Website/Working Papers http:// www.solonline.org/res/wp/learning-sys.html.
[32] SoL (The Society of Learning) (1999) About SoL, reflections: the sol journal on knowledge, learning and change. MIT Press Journals, Cambridge, MA. Vol.11, p. 2.
[33] Kaufman, J. (1998) Value management: creating competitive advantage. Crisp Management Library, Crisp Publications, Baldock, UK.
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[35] Quinn JJ. The role of good conversation in strategic control. Journal of Management Studies 1996;33(3):3814.
[36] CEN (European Committee for Standardization). Value management, European standard BS EN 12973:2000. Chiswick: British Standards Institution (BSI), 2000.
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[39] Burns J. Leadership. New-York: Harper and Row, 1978.
[40] Bennis W, Nanus B. Leaders: the strategies for taking charge. New-York: Harper and Row, 1985.
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Michel Thiry, International Journal of Project Management 20 (2002) 221227, Boulevard G. Van Haelen, 193, 1190, Brussels, Belgium

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Project Management Tools & Templates

Project management is the application of knowledge, skills, tools and techniques to a broad range of activities in order to meet the requirements of the particular project. A project is a temporary endeavor undertaken to achieve a particular aim. Project management knowledge and practices are best described in terms of their component processes. These processes can be placed into five Process Groups: Initiating, Planning, Executing, Controlling and Closing.

According to project management expert James Chapman, here is what to do if you want to start a new project or if someone has asked you to start a project.

Step #1: “Focus on your business.”

The old saying, “Mind your own business,” really has two parts: (1) you need to avoid getting involved in things that aren’t on your path to success, and (2) you need to know what business you are in and then mind that business with care. This saying may seem like a cliche’, but it is the first rule of business success. If you get this one wrong, nothing else will really go right. Implementation of this principle, involves careful project selection and definition. You should define the scope of your project so it embraces the areas for which you will be responsible. If you try to do a project outside of your area of influence, you will be likely to have problems. Understand the organizational boundaries between your business and others’. Look at risk areas in the potential project scope that you will not be able to influence, and try to contain these or define them out of your project area. If this is not a project you should be doing, then don’t do it. Effective project selection is the first step towards project success.

If you decide to proceed, here are the steps to get you going:

Step #2: Obtain management sponsorship and a clear charter.

The main reason projects fail is lack of upper management support and commitment, so be sure your bosses want you to proceed. Draft a charter of your responsibilities and scope as a project manager. You should write down what will be expected of you, the general project ground rules, and how you will obtain resources to do the job. You should also write in some of the items you will not be responsible for, just to keep things straight. Review the policies, procedures, and methods in your organization that govern the way projects are done. Edit the charter with your boss until you are both comfortable signing it. Understand your organization’s project selection and approval process, and perform the next steps iteratively through the early steps of that process.

Step #3: Understand and document your requirements.

This step is the most important step towards project success. It will serve as the basis for your plan, for your cost and schedule estimates, and it will enable you to manage changes as your project progresses. If the requirements are unclear, make some assumptions and document them using the templates below. In addition, use the templates to put your requirements document under some sort of version control, and then manage the changes deliberately. If there are significant changes, you may need to revisit your cost and schedule estimates. Without a written requirements statement, you will have no way of accounting for changes and managing your customer and sponsor expectations.

Step #4: Document a realistic plan.

You need to document the linkage between your project scope description, the staffing and procurement estimates, and the schedule and then iterate these until they fit the organizational goals and constraints. Create a “project plan” document, and use this plan to communicate to stakeholders the assumptions and intentions of the project effort (use templates shown below below). Break your project into phases, incorporate the phases into your project schedule, and plan updates to your scope document, cost estimate, and schedule for before each phase transition review meeting. In addition to the phase transitions, which are gated by major milestone review meetings, structure the work within each phase into intermediate and lower level milestones, and link tasks to the production of deliverables (like requirements documents, design specifications, conceptual designs, detailed designs, Bills of Materials (BOMs), etc.) Unless your project is small and quick, write a work breakdown structure to help you map charge numbers, schedules, project metrics, etc. Do your best to reconcile the project scope, resource budgets, and schedule goals in a realistic way. If your plan is not realistic, it cannot possibly succeed as planned.

Step #5: Build your project team.

Develop a staffing plan based on your resource estimates of kinds and quantities of people required. Select the key people for your project team, and speak with each one individually to determine their interest level and to solicit their commitment to working productively and constructively on the project team. Steps #3 through #5 should be done iteratively, because key team members should be involved in understanding the requirements and documenting the plan.

Step #6: Assess your risks.

Identify areas of your project where there is uncertainty, with potential for significant negative consequences, and then formally designate these as “project risks.” Use the templates below to help you identify your risks and define management actions to avoid, mitigate, monitor, and manage your project risks. Add your list of risks and your risk management actions to your project plan and communicate them clearly at management review meetings.

Step #7: Project Execution

If you have made it this far in your project, your plan is complete, you have obtained a decision to proceed, and you are ready to begin the project execution or implementation phase of your project. Assemble your project team for a formal kick-off meeting; make sure task leaders have clear ownership and responsibility for their project areas; manage your scope, cost, and schedule baselines carefully; and make sure you have metrics in place to monitor all the important vital-signs of your project.

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