Many organisational managers may not fully realise it but much of what occupies their day to day business tasks are projects or ‘project management’.
At ETM we strongly believe all organisational managers should acquire basic up to date project skills to help them to be more successful in today’s challenging world. Project management should no longer be seen as a niche competency but more of a core competency required by ALL organisational managers.
The core principles of project management are not difficult to learn and every manager should know these well to help them be more successfully in the complex and changeable world we now live in. And if so, maybe quite a bit of pain and suffering could be avoided in today’s workplace?
What makes up the work we ALL do?
As a busy and overworked organisational manager where we never seem to have enough hours in the day let’s consider the types of work that we ALL do “day to day”!
So where do ‘projects’ fit in?
The definition of a ‘Project’ according to PMI (the global body of Project Management) is:
“A temporary endeavour undertaken to create a unique product, service or result”
Source: PMBOK ® 5th Edition 2013.
Based on this definition could not all of the ‘Type B’ work be considered “projects”? The work is once off, we do it once so it can be considered “temporary” we start it then we finish it!! And when we think about what we’re doing, it’s something we have not done before so it can be considered “unique”.
So if this is the case, are not ALL organisational managers involved in ‘project’ activities? And if you take this a step further, in that you’re responsible for delivering the outcome of the project, then you’re effectively operating as a “Project Manager” as well!!!
The fact is ALL organisational managers are involved in ‘project activities’
and will operate as ‘Project Managers’ (from time to time) whether they
realise it or not!!
How and why have things changed?
The changeable world we live in now has created an environment whereby project work is taking over from repeat process type work. Less and less of our work is tending to repetitive and repeatable and more is becoming unique and once off.
We suggest that routine operational or BAU (business as usual) activities are no longer the lifeblood of what all managers do. In today’s world a lot of what a Manager does is being involved in delivering projects.
In a landmark publication “Creating the Project Office – Leading Organisational Change” the authors attempted to explain this fundamental shift:
“Changes in the environment, changes in customer expectations, and
changes in technology used in organisational processes have brought many
organisations to the point where up to 80% of their work is project work
rather than repeat process work.”
The authors argue that there’s been a fundamental shift to project type work for all managers, and in some extreme cases project activities can account for up to 80% of what some organisational managers do day to day!!
Why are project skills so important?
People don’t generally appreciate it but running and managing projects are VERY different to managing routine operations. The characteristics of these types of work could not be more different.
Please consider the following table illustrating the main characteristics of project activities vs. routine operational activities.
|Characteristic||Project Activity||Operational Activity|
|Life cycle||Temporary. The project
activity will have a definite
start and a finish.
|Repetitive. The activity will
be repeated as and when
|Unique. Will be different,
never done it exactly like this
|Same. The same product,
service or result produced
will be exactly as done
|People / Resources||Need to figure out! We need
to work out what people and
resources we need. Not done
|Known. Normal operations
should cover what’s needed
to be done. There should be
an established organisation
structure with roles &
defined to do what needs to
|Costs to complete||Need to figure out! We will
need to work out how much
it’s going to cost to do the
project. What are we doing?
How long will it take? What
resources do we need?
|Known. By in large these
should be mostly known.
Operating budgets will have
been defined to do the work.
|Organisational change||Will bring change. Projects
by their nature will bring
change. NB: How easy is it
to bring in change to
|No significant change. No
significant change expected.
|Risks||Add new risks. Doingsomething new and unique
will potentially add new and
|Existing risks. If we
continue with normal
should have a good handle on
what risks there running.
How different are these? We suggest they are HUGELY different and being good at managing one does not necessarily mean you be good at managing the other? Projects are very different and to be successful it’s important you manage them in the right way.
These days more and more of our jobs involve doing projects and being good at the day to day operations does not necessarily mean you’re going to be good at managing projects.
As we’ve seen the characteristics of projects are HUGELY different to repetitive operational activities and as a result the way you manage each will differ. Could this be a big reason to help explain the poor success rates of projects?
To be successful in today’s complex and changeable world all organisational managers should have basic project management skills. Every manager needs projects skills to do their job these days and it’s an undisputed fact of life that we all work on projects whether we like it or not.
The impact and pain of badly run projects will continue to affect us unless we get to know what we’re doing, engage the right people with the right knowledge and skills. Peter Drucker (management guru) once said “If you think training is expensive try ignorance”!! I think one only has to look at the implications of badly run projects to agree. Why not try to make our lives easier!!
To help organisational managers be more successful ‘Project Management’
skills should be recognised as a CORE competency!!