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Project management is dead. Long live project management

I read recently that “Project management doesn’t work”. Apparently a new CEO said this in an interview. So it’s official.

Of course, the speaker wasn’t really saying we should ignore project management. He argued that it doesn’t work because people just do not use it as they should. So he was advocating a new way of working that is all about increasing visibility, not just reporting into the system.

An interesting view and I think one that would resonate with a lot of people in the NHS and public sector; struggling to get buy in for their complex projects, and then drive sustainable change once they have the buy in. We have all been there.

So maybe we need to jettison the phrase project management and just promote the things that work?

For a project to be successful you need:

Alignment – the programme and project activities must be in sync with the organisation’s strategic objectives. If not, you are pushing at a locked door. But if you manage the correct linkages, then you will save time and money as well as delivering the objectives you need.

Focus – where can changes be made which will maximise your chances of getting the transformation you need and delivering the outcomes your organisation requires. So simplify governance from a very complex multi layered beast to a far clearer more directed and useful system.

Visibility – you need to see the risks and issues clearly, and know who and how to get them resolved. And by making sure that you are planning quickly and reporting openly and accurately you make progress faster and with more buy in.

Independence – of course you are signed up to organisational goals but for a project to be really successful, you have to retain an independent mind on benefits and how they are realised.

Expertise – all too often, we add project management onto someone else’s job role. It is a key skill and needs trained and experienced people to make it happen.

The first step is a backward one! Take a step back and have an honest assessment of where you are. A diagnostic approach to your project management will be absolutely worthwhile in the medium term, setting up the framework that can then allow your projects to really accelerate and start delivering benefits.

So, project management does work, but only when it is properly understood and implemented. Without that perspective, your teams will work increasingly hard, but achieve increasingly little.

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