All organizations use projects as the way to translate strategies into actions and objectives into realities. Many companies are project-intensive – they live and breathe project management because they are in that kind of business, such as construction, aerospace, engineering design, engineer-procure-construct (EPC), general contractors, consulting, software, and so on. For them, organizing around projects is a natural way of life as almost all senior staff have “come up through the ranks”, and top management understands what it takes to be successful in project work. On the other hand are less project-intensive organizations such as food, retailing and textiles. But even such companies have projects, e.g., setting up a new distribution depot or a new plant. Even in public sector, it is effective project management that translates politicians’ visions of new roads, schools and hospitals into gleaming new constructions that improve everyday life.

Realization of objectives is not easy, though; especially in today’s increasingly complex and high-stake world – richer technology, distributed / global / outsourced workgroups, culture differences due to inorganic growth, cost pressures, new services and products, mass customization needs for demanding customers, compressed time-to-market, increasing market volumes and stricter regulatory requirements. Numerous studies and observations have shown that strong business growth or other ambitious endeavors frequently bring the following risks in deployment of strategies to manage the endeavors:

– Delays due to ineffective project planning, monitoring, coordination, risk-management and follow-through

– Poor realization of financial goals due to ineffective scope management and staff utilization / accountability

– Customer dissatisfaction due to lack of responsiveness, communications and stakeholder management

Thus, the key for most organizations to remain competitive in a high-growth and fast-changing environment is strong delivery capability made possible by uniform and effective processes, structure, and discipline of planning and monitoring initiatives that translate strategy into reality.

Project Management is a competency that leaders can use in their organizations to handle increasing complexity with higher success rates and acceptance, and lower uncertainty and costs. Following are just a few examples of the organizational inefficiencies that pose the above-mentioned risks, but can be effectively handled through use of the Project Management competency:

– Schedules managed in silos and dependencies are not integrated.

– Delays in one area not communicated to a dependent area, so resources not allocated efficiently.

– Schedules having short-term forecast range. Long-term planning at the activity-level non-existent.

– Schedules not identifying true critical paths and not including non-working time and defect estimates.

– Many communication channels informal, and therefore information not documented and communicated to all appropriate stakeholders in a timely manner.

– Responsibility for decision-making not clearly defined (decisions affecting shifting priorities or resources, changing dates, etc.).

– Lack of proactive risk identification and management.

– Inadequate reporting – lack of visibility / insight into the true status of the projects.

– Frequently forgotten or delayed activities and decisions

The art of managing projects is about having consistency in achieving stated objectives within limits of time, budget, and stakeholders’ satisfaction, by directing and coordinating human and material resources. Project Management is a way of life for enhanced collaboration, governance, execution-discipline, responsiveness, and alignment of organizational elements and procedures with features of products and operations. Project Management skills are quite different from technical design, engineering or construction skills usually associated with most projects, and cover aspects outside of the scope of these technical areas that have to be well managed, if the project objectives are to be met. Project Management also differs from traditional management in that it brings in cross-functional collaboration, governance, execution-discipline, responsiveness, and alignment of organizational elements and procedures with features of end-products of projects. It can help leaders bring in agility in innovation, growth and response to changes in the external environment.

Applying effective Project Management for deployment of strategy and goals can thus provide organizations the following advantages:

– Business advantage through timely achievement of goals, optimal resource utilization and information based decision making

– Competitive advantage through workforce energized by culture of execution and collaboration and customer satisfied by getting the “right” results reliably

Project Management can also bring in some tangible benefits for individuals at various levels in organizations. For example, through project management:

– Executives get accurate and timely information so that they can make sound business decisions and make course corrections quickly so they can maintain a competitive edge.

– People who execute understand their roles and responsibilities and how their work relates to the bigger picture. Minimization of conflicts and confusions through effective communications increases productivity and enthusiasm.

It can be concluded that project management as a management discipline, individual competency and organizational culture underpins much economic activity and is a critical source of multiple advantages. The specialized role of project management in bringing agility to organizations that want to innovate, whether it is for new products or new initiatives, cannot be ignored.

Mr. Manu is an engineer, certified PMP and Six-Sigma green-belt with 13 years’ experience in Business and IT Consulting, Outsourcing and Project Management. As Principal at CGN, he leads engagements and knowledge management in the execution management stream, which includes Effective Initiative Execution, Monitoring and Governance of Initiatives, Distressed Project Recovery, Workgroup Management and Innovative (New) Product Development.
He has worked with companies like McKinsey, Caterpillar, GE, Tata Infotech and Birlasoft in multi-cultural teams across US, Europe and India. He has defined, set up and led several strategic initiatives from the ground-up. He received his Bachelor’s in Engineering Degree from Netaji Subas Institute of Technology, Delhi, India, in a First Class with Distinction. He has also been nominated for senior leadership development programs during his tenure with McKinsey and Birlasoft.
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