Advanced Project Management Assessment
Advanced Project Management Assessment
1 Limitations of the Traditional Approach to Project Management.
This section deals with some of the issues affecting the traditional approach to project management and their effect on the current systems. In addition, the issue of emerging factors for successful project management are discussed. The limitations of the traditional approach are also noted as causing project failures by ignoring the factors that promote project success.
1.1 Traditional Approach Characteristics
Project management theory has altered from the traditional perspective to a more comprehensive and modern approach due to its ineffectiveness in ensuring project success. The traditional approach or waterfall approach is based on the fallacy that circumstances will not change from the beginning of the project to its conclusion (Marle & Vidal 2016, p.53). It assumes that factors affecting project success are predictable and that the tasks are completed sequentially in an orderly fashion. In reality, all aspects of a project are in constant motion in terms of interacting with and responding to changes the internal and external project environments. The traditional approach utilizes the methods in project management that are applicable for most domains but does not conclusively deal with emerging concerns in project management. According to academics, project complexity includes spatial complexity or structural complexity due to the variables involved, unpredictable complexity in terms of unexpected events and dynamic complexity due to feedback loops within the project management system (Marle & Vidal 2016, p.54). The main limits according to Marle and Vidal include the issues of uncertainty, ambiguity, propagation and chaos (2016, p.57).
The main characteristic of this approach is that the events are strictly delineated with the approach being rigid in nature. Rather than catering to the dynamic events that affect project success, the traditional approach assumes that each step is concluded before proceeding to the next step. The approach uses very methodical project planning, monitoring and control processes (Haas 2008, p.1). However, the traditional approach does have some benefits in that it describes the different steps for project management in an orderly manner. In addition, it is applicable to many situations. From personal experience with this approach, it does not consider the nuances of project management that can impact its success or failure and therefore can inadvertently ignore a factor that causes project failure. While it is a useful approach in project management, it lacks in terms of catering to the dynamism of project development.
1.2 Emerging Factors of Project Success
There are numerous elements that influence the success or failure of a project. These factors are usually associated with the specific approach to project management that is utilized in during the process. Unfortunately, the statistics from the Standish Group International indicate that the project failures are an expensive affair costing $80-145 billion per year (Haas 2008, p. 2). This illustrates the need for identifying the necessary factors for project successes. Some of the factors described by Irya Hyvari include project mission, project plans, technical tasks, management or leadership support, monitoring and feedback, troubleshooting, communication, personnel, client consultations (Steinfort & Walker 2007, p.2). Clearly, each of these factors caters to a significant aspect of the project operations and considers the complexities involved in project management. These factors show that there is a human element in project management that is crucial in ensuring the success of a project rather than just accomplishing the processes.
This view differs from the traditional concept of project success where success is measured by the achievement of its objectives only rather than the success of the entire project. Some of the common measures of success include the achievement of cost-effectiveness, timeliness, performance and quality among others. Indeed, the success of a project should include the accomplishment of objectives, effective use of resources, and successes in communication and operations among others. According to Daniel Stober, the emerging factors associated with project success are considered to mostly consist of soft skills including improved communication, leadership, mentoring and coaching, and setting goals (Stober 2013, p. 3). However, these ‘soft skills’ are probably the most important factor in ensuring the successful completion and implementation of a project. From class projects, it has been clear that good leadership and clear communication have been significant contributors in ensuring the success of projects undertaken within the course. Factors affecting project success therefore do not only deal with the project planning only but includes the interrelations among project members. While these factors vary among different academics, it is clear that they offer a complex yet feasible solution to the many cases of project failure.
2 Broader Factors to Enhance Project Performance
2.1 Soft Systems Methodology
According to Chetland and Poulter, soft systems methodology refers to an action oriented process of investigation into difficult scenarios in every day scenarios where individuals analyze the situation and develop actions to improve the same (Chetland & Poulter 2006, p.22). It is an approach that encourages one to think in this way at all times. In my view, soft systems methodology is a way in which an individual can improve their project management skills by being becoming adaptable. As mentioned previously, real projects are extremely diverse and dynamic and consists of different complexities. There in project management soft systems methodology enables one to easily shift focus among several different scenarios while also managing to deal with new unpredictable events in the course of the project. Some major aspects that are important to understand in soft systems methodology is that the user is encouraged to develop or create an action that can improve this real-world scenario while conducting a comparison that further promotes structured discussions about alterations and subsequent actions. Here the purpose activity models deal with the issue of why and what, where they are defined as simple devices that enable real world complexity to be discussed in a structured manner (Chetland & Poulter 2006, p.152).
2.2 Systems Thinking
This refers to where the interactions between the different elements of project management are considered rather than viewing everything as a whole. It is an important aspect in project management as it encourages a holistic examination of the project, its variables and its interactions. It allows the project manager to view the relations and conflicts between elements and therefore avoid these problems. Having this view ensures that project performance is not only limited to the factors of success but rather includes every aspect of the project. Adopting this view also enables the user to utilize the modern tools and methods afforded for project management.
3 Evolution of a Project Management System within Organizations
The project management systems of organizations have continuously evolved since they were first developed in the 1960s. The evolution is evident in the different processes, structures and models that are used to enhance the project management system and its progress. Some of the evolutionary elements discussed below include the Project Management Office and the Project Management Maturity Models to demonstrate how much project management has changed.
3.1 Project Management Office
For many companies, the Project Management Office does not seem to provide much to the advancement of processes. However, in reality the PMO is a significant and important aspect of improving project management. With the evolution of project management in corporations, there is a greater need for the PMO as it enables the company to keep track of numerous projects undertaken simultaneously. The development of PMOs shows that project management is not only limited to the project managers but rather requires other participants and factors to ensure the success of the project According to Crawford, the PMO functions as a support by monitoring schedules, status reporting, providing project management tools, training staff and developing project management methodologies among others (2015). Stober contends that the PMO can be viewed as a profit center in terms of providing manpower that can deal with high-priority and high-profit opportunities (Stober 2013, p.4). The PMO has had an ever-expanding role in improving project management by institutionalizing the knowledge necessary to carry out best practices in the field. However, it is interesting to note that many companies are unable to see the value of the PMOs due to a lack of understanding of its importance or function within the corporation. When the role of the PMO becomes well-defined within a company, then project management can occur effectively and become engrained in the institutions structure.
3.2 Project Management Maturity Model
The Project Management Maturity Model refers to a tool used to identify and measure the project management maturity of an organization. The software engineering industry is largely responsible for the development of maturity models in describing project management. In my view, these project management maturity models are important in that they produce a logical view and path that leads to progressive development. This is a significant improvement in determining the status of the project as well as identifying the changes or limitations affecting project management maturity within an organization. It provides a map of the actions that improve performance and advance management maturity. In my view, this tool is especially effective as it considers every aspect of project management that determines the success or failure of a project. It is even more important as a standard model due to its adherence to industry standards. According to Crawford, the PMMM is based on the Software Engineering Capability Maturity Model because of its widespread acceptance and the increased improvement. The PMMM enables one to develop a different perception of project management that is more comprehensive and useful in the long run. It enables the improvement of project management practices in different areas that are crucial for the proper sequence of events in a project. While the determination of the maturity of project management is subjective, the PMMM plays an important role in providing an avenue of evaluation of project management processes.
The PMMM consists of five maturity levels and ten knowledge areas according to PM solutions (Crawford, 2015). The five maturity levels include the following:
· Level 1: Initial Process where issues such as management awareness are considered with respect to project management
· Level 2: Structure Process and Standards which includes basic processes, the use of intermediate and summary information based on expert tools among others.
· Level 3: Organizational standards and Institutionalized standards where there are institutionalized processes, organizational focus and informal investigation of project performance.
· Level 4: Managed Process where an analysis of the project performance is conducted, leadership demands compliance, schedules are based on organization specifics
· Level 5: Optimized Process where activities to measure project effectiveness and efficiency as well as improve performance are the focus of the management.
The ten knowledge areas are (Crawford, 2015):
· Project Integration Management
· Project Scope Management
· Project Time Management
· Project Quality Management
· Project Human Resource Management
· Project Communications Management
· Project Risk Management
· Project Procurement Management
· Project Stakeholder Management
4 Importance of Context for, and its Effects, on the Management of Projects
It is crucial to understand the environment within which a project is developing. Defining the context of the project enables one to understand why certain actions are necessary or the reasons for a certain decision. External contributors to project management can have a real impact on the process due to the role they occupy in a project.
4.1 Environmental Changes
The internal and external environment of a project can affect its intended performance. It is crucial to consider the current environment and the effects of certain actions on the project environment. For example the type of leadership may differ depending on the industry or the expectations of the organization therefore having an impact on the project management methods used. Some of the effects of the changes include problems during planning processes and high interdependence among processes. Each of the changes mentioned above affects either the internal or external environment of the project. For instance, the lack of materials can be an external factor while the change in goals is an internal factor. The effects may positive or negative depending on the goals and structure of the project management system. It is therefore important to understand the environment so that appropriate changes are made every time a new event occurs. According to Collyer et al., causes of change include;
· Change in materials/ tools/ resources
· Alteration in relationships
· Alteration in objectives (Collyer et al 2010, p.1)
4.2 Evolutions in Business
Another important aspect to consider in determining the context is the current practices and norms within that particular industry. Having knowledge of what is occurring in the industry in terms of innovation and new practices can be a crucial aspect of improving the project management system. It enables the individual to consider the best possible practices that can be adopted with the inclusion of external contributors in the business. As a project manager, one must keep up with these changes to enhance the chances of a competitive advantage while maintaining control of the project. Being unaware of the current practices can have negative effects by ignoring newer or more effective methods for the older techniques.
5 Reflections and Lessons Learnt
Throughout this course, there are some important lessons to be learnt from the present and past methods used in project management. First, project management has significantly shifted from the traditional perception of a rigid and disciplined structure. While the previous structure was based on the processes involved in software engineering, modern project management recognizes that project management involves different complex moving parts. I think this is an important fact to note in project management. While numerous tools and methods have been developed regarding project management, many organizations still find it difficult to achieve success. The reason for this is likely due to a lack of understanding of advanced project management and an unwillingness to shift from the traditional perspective. Another reason may be that the measures of success are narrowed to simply completing the project on time or within the schedule. However, advanced project management can have a significant impact on increasing the probability of project success. In addition, some of the project management tools and theories that I found to be most helpful are included below.
· Systems thinking: This is an important theory for me in that it focuses on the system interactions that comprise the entire system rather than the actual processes. In my view, the interactions and interconnections between different elements in a project are of paramount importance as they impact the factors of project success. By improving these interactions, then the overall system becomes improved. The systems thinking school of thought is appealing in that it views not only the whole but the parts of the system. The applicability of systems thinking may however present a challenge to organizations that have adopted the traditional approach to project management.
· Soft Systems Methodology (SSM): As a learning model, the SSM plays an important role in allowing the analysis of different real life scenarios that translate into dealing with project management issues. The issues of leadership and communication were major factors in the class workshops as they illustrate the importance of these ‘soft’ skills in ensuring project success. Indeed, the SSM is an interesting way of viewing unexpected occurrences within the project and developing the ability to respond quickly and effectively to the numerous possible outcomes. For me, the SSM was especially helpful in understanding that real-world solutions can be modelled into actions that improve the outcome of a specific event. Project managers would greatly benefit by improving their skills through this tool.
· Single and Double Loop Learning: Single and double loop learning are useful tools in determining the efficacy of the decisions made within project management. The main distinction between single and double loop is that while single loop follows the take action-notice feedback-gap between current and expected status- make decision chain, the double loop includes an aspect of analyzing the root cause of the issues.
· Mind Maps: In the mind maps workshops, the tool was extremely helpful in improving the learning process while enhancing problem solving and recording skills. Most individuals are visual learners therefore, the use of mind maps is one of the best tools in project management from personal experience. It opens up the mind in a graphical manner that allows one to envision all the parts of the project and their interconnections therefore enhancing project management systems. Furthermore, mind maps are easily applicable due to the simple premise and use of the tool.
· Fishbone diagrams: The fishbone diagrams were another useful tool that I found to be simple yet effective to use in project management. It allows the user to identify the different processes and their progression in project management such that one can view the expected trajectory of the project. This tool was especially useful in projects with numerous elements and variables. The visual aspect is also appealing in simplifying the complex processes involved in project management.
6 Project Management Actions
To further develop ones skills in project management, it is crucial to develop critical thinking, problem solving and leadership skills. Using tools such as the soft systems methodology, an individual can increase their ability to identify problems and solutions in an effective manner. They are able to develop good management skills by being capable of developing actions that can improve the project management process. I think it is important for a student to understand and effectively implement the different tools available in project management in order to improve their skills. Another tool that can enhance student project management skills is the use of the single and double looping learning. In my view, the double looping learning is more effective in that it enables the individual to analyze the decisions and determine where there is a discrepancy and therefore understand the root cause. Each of the tools detailed above including mind maps and fishbone diagrams are crucial to increase understanding of project management strategies as well as improving skill. In the future, more research must be conducted to find more effective ways of advancing project management. The importance of project management cannot be underestimated in terms of affecting organizational successes.
Marle, F. & Vidal, L. (2016). Managing Complex, High Risk Projects. London: Springer-Verlag.
Haas, K. (2008). The Blending of Traditional and Agile Project Management. Retrieved May 11, 2017, from www.pmworldtoday.net
Steinfort, P and Walker, D. (2007). Critical Success Factors in Project Management Globally and How they may be Applied to AID Projects. Proceedings of the PMOZ Achieving Excellence-4th Annual Project Management Australia Conference, 28-31.
Stober, D. (2013). Emerging Trends in Project Management. Expert Reference Series of White Papers. Retrieved May 11, 2017. From www.globalknowledge.com
Crawford, K. (2015). What is Project Management Maturity? Retrieved May 11, 2017, from http://www.ittoday.info/ITPerformanceImprovement/Articles/2015-03Crawford.html
Collyer, S., Warren, C. M. J., Hemsley, B., & Stevens, C. (2010). Aim fire aim—project planning styles in dynamic environments. PMI Research Conference: Defining the Future of Project Management, Washington, DC. Newtown Square, PA: Project Management Institute.