Cultivating a Successful Project Management Culture at Your Company

Like every other company out there, your company works on projects.  Anytime you want to do something new, strategic, or challenging – that’s a project. Projects help bring order to chaos, and balance demands for resources. When delivered successfully, projects lower operating costs, improve efficiencies, and fulfill strategic objectives.

However, many organizations fail to realize the benefits of projects for many reasons such as lack of buy-in from senior management and the absence of defined project management standards. In this article, I’ll explore three common reasons why organizations struggle to implement effective project management, and four ways to cultivate a successful project management culture in your organization.

 

3 Reasons Organizations Fail with Project Management

1. Lack of a Project Management Framework

Quite often, individuals tasked with managing a project have no formal training in project management. As a result, the whole idea of “project management” is a new concept. In the absence of a clear approach, individuals will get creative and develop their own ways of working, leading to multiple styles in one organization!  

 

2. No Best Practice Templates or Guidance

The lack of standard templates, a collaborative tool, or a knowledge base with lessons learned forces project managers to re-invent the wheel with every new project. In addition, project plans are often managed in email and Excel and project documents are floating around in obscure file locations.

 

3. Poor End User Adoption

Even if you manage to implement a standardized approach and best practice templates, people don’t like change, especially when it comes to their work. They have habits, routines, their way of managing things – which may work for them and their team – but doesn’t provide the visibility required across many projects in the enterprise. 

 

4 Ways to Cultivate a Culture of Project Management

1. Pick the right approach

If someone wanted to develop a culture of project management in their organization, perhaps the most important bit of advice I would give them is to pick the right approach for your organization.

Below is a project management spectrum we use with our customers.  As depicted, some projects require a lighter touch whilst others need more rigorous project management processes.  The choice will depend on project maturity levels with your organization,  the number of projects, the complexity of projects, duration of projects, etc.

 

project management process

 

Once you have picked your approach that is right for you, share this decision.  Let people know that you are establishing a common set of guidelines to get project management under control, and train people on the approach.  This will help to embed project management as part of the way your organization does things.

 

2. Pick the right tool

After you have decided the approach you want to take, select the tool that will allow you to start there – but with the flexibility to grow and evolve as needed.  We’ve seen lots of companies that get caught up in all the bells and whistles of an enterprise level project management system that they forget it’s simply too much.  The colorful charts and incredibly detailed reports look so nice they simply have to have it!  Remeber – you only need as much project management you are ready for.

The only way to cultivate the right project management environment is to select a tool that gives you a good starting point for project management, but also has the flexibility to mature as your processes mature.  Our free online resource, Project and Portfolio Management Software Evaluation Guide, will help you in that search.

 

3. Enable everyone

The key to successful project management is to support quick and open collaboration with the entire team.  It is critical that the new solution is easier to use, or in some cases, obviously worth the extra effort for team members.

Focus on role-based training to help your team understand how the software supports their role.

The solution also needs to reinforce the organization’s methodology. By implementing a solution that enables and reinforces process, the benefits of the tool should be so blatantly obvious that your team loves using it!  With SharePoint, create templates to capture your project management best practices so it is accessible and repeatable for project managers. Here are some ideas to help you map your approach to a project site:

 

project management spectrum

4. Lead by example

Finally, find someone to act as a “Project Management Champion,” to secure senior management buy-in.  The champion is someone who really cares about the project management, someone who “gets it” and really wants it to succeed.  Support from senior management will also come in handy when you are trying to encourage end-user adoption of the new project management procedures.  Foster a culture comes from the top down, so when employees see the PM Champion and executives actually caring about project management, they’ll get onboard too.

 

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in January 2013 and has been updated for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness.

 

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