Project Management in Harmony

Project Management in Harmony

The Prince2 definition of a project is a temporary organization that is created for the purpose of delivering one or more business products according to an agreed business case.

PMI defines a project as follows: A project is temporary in that it has a defined beginning and end in time, and therefore defined scope and resources. And a project is unique in that it is not a routine operation, but a specific set of operations designed to accomplish a singular goal.

Roles and responsibilities

The members of any given project team are more often than not from cross functional areas in the greater organisation or organisations and for the best possible project outcome it is of vital importance that a thorough roles and responsibilities discussion be held at the kick-off of the project to avoid confusion, duplication of efforts or gaps. For large or complex projects the tool more often used than not is some form of a RASCI chart which clearly stipulates every team member’s responsibility during every life cycle phase and for every work product planned for.

I like to compare project roles and responsibilities with a performance of an orchestra. The aim is to play a specific piece of music for an audience perfectly and in order to do so everyone has to do their part and only their part or they will risk the whole thing sounding like a choir of alley cats instead of a masterpiece (Put differently – swim in your lane).

  • The Promotor = Executive sponsor a.k.a Moneybags. This is the person responsible for providing the resources needed to pull off the project successfully. The sponsor has the most vested in the project and will end up with egg on their face if the project does not deliver the expected benefits. Interestingly enough, it is estimated that a third of all projects fail due to lack of proper executive sponsorship.
  • The Conductor = Here lives the project manager with the stick. This person is responsible for timing and execution of plans, managing stakeholders and their expectations and doing it all within the time and budget specified, to the level of quality required, a.k.a the fall guy if things go wrong.
  • The Composer = Business Analyst/ System analyst. The analyst will take the dream of the sponsor and put it into specifications that can be understood by mere mortals from which a plan can be formulated in order to pull off a fabulously successful project.
  • Players/Members = Team who does the actual work to pull off the project successfully. This person is heavily invested in their “instrument” or if you want, with how the before state and after state will affect their work processes and environment. If you do not have buy in from your players, your project will fail miserably. In terms of orchestra, if your guys have been practicing Bach for 30 years you can’t whip out a Vivaldi 10 minutes before show time and expect them to be on point in time for the show. Change management is more important than you think!

Now imagine for a second that one of the violin players didn’t make it for the concert. Potential disaster! The conductor remembers taking violin lessons for a month when he was 7 and takes up the open position with the best intentions in the world, as the show must go on. Now nobody else knows when to play fast or slow, hard or soft because the guy with the stick is now stroking some strings, badly at that. It all goes pear shaped and the Promoter is left feeling robbed, and the audience tortured.

Similarly, the players do not just alter the sheet music if they don’t agree with the tempo or the notes. It might be a really great piece of altered music, but it is not what the Promoter has commissioned and the rest of the players are playing something else entirely. Everyone has a clearly defined role and in order to pull off a masterpiece they have to stick to what they are responsible. This is not an informal band jamming session where you just get to go off script when the spirit moves you!

And what about Agile?

Agile project management has become increasingly popular, and many people mistakenly think that it cuts out all red tape or need for proper documentation. Although this is not strictly speaking true, it does resemble a band jamming session more than an orchestra. It’s smaller, more informal and the lanes are not always as clearly defined.

Agile project management is defined as an iterative approach to planning and guiding project processes. An Agile project is completed in small fast paced sections called sprints, and insights gained from the critique on an iteration are used to determine what the next step should be in the project.

Agile Project Management is focused on customer value and close team interaction rather than tasks. It is more concerned with business reality than following a prescribed plan. Teams will conduct daily short stand up sessions to track progress and identify work arounds for impediments, and visual aids such as whiteboards and post-its are a common sight for Agile project teams.

The major advantage for following an Agile methodology is that it is much faster than regular waterfall methods and subsequently tends to cut down on project costs and resources needed in the process. Constant visibility of progress makes it very unlikely that an Agile project will ever get stuck in analysis paralysis.

As with most things, when you’re onto a good thing people will want to put their personal stamp on it and as such there are a myriad of hybrid approaches somewhere between Waterfall and Agile methodologies. Of these there are many that can be used with relative ease and others that are jokingly referred to as a wet sticky note approach. It is, as always, important to find the best approach for your particular organisation or project, one size does not fit all.

To lean or not to lean?

The main aim of Lean transformations is to maximize customer value while minimising waste. Any Lean transformations must be guided by three fundamental business issues:

  • Purpose: Which customer and or organisational problems will be solved?
  • Process: How can each step in the value stream is assessed and evaluated on flow, pull and leveling?
  • People: How can each person involved in the value stream be actively engaged to operate in it correctly and motivated to seek continuous improvement?

There are many tools available to incorporate lean into your organisation and when considering process changes during the design phase of your project it would be prudent in considering lean principles in your design for optimal results.

Project Management 101 on Biteable.

By: Louisa Bouwer
Registered Prince2 Practitioner, enthusiastic cellphone photographer, agony aunt and protector of secrets, diviner or body language and general delight in both imagined and real crisis situations


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