Why do you say that Project Management is the best method of implementing change?

Although change occurs continuously in the world and in our daily lives it is rarely implemented that way in organisations but rather as a series of steps; a ladder of change.

A new piece of legislation, market imperatives, management initiatives and new technology create projects that need to be managed, often across departmental or disciplinary lines. Project Management is a methodology and a discipline which can bring significant benefits to organisations by:-

However, every organisation has finite resources and, therefore, a limit to the number of projects it can initiate and control. Pushing too many projects through a resource limited organisation causes gridlock and stress. Managing the project portfolio efficiently is a fundamental principle of good project management.

Because most projects involve new ideas and learning (even a project to build houses or flats may involve new materials or unusual soil conditions or there may be new initiative for tenant selection or co-ownership schemes) project management has evolved a discipline to manage the new and unusual. Its objective is to:

It is this structured approach that makes project management the best method for change management.

What is a project?

A project is generally defined as a programme of work to bring about a beneficial change and which has:-

Examples of a project:-

The development and introduction of a new services

The development of a management information system

The introduction of an improvement to an existing process

Setting up a new care initiative

The creation of a large tender or the preparation of a response to it.

The production of a new customer newsletter, catalogue or Web site

How is a project different to any other work?

A continuous process is not a project. The development of a new rent or lettings policy is a project but the subsequent day to day operation of that policy is a continuous process that is usually managed by an individual or a department.

Is Project Management relevant to me?

If you have been given a specific job to complete then you should consider using the principles of project management if it has the following features:-

A defined goal

Time, cost and quality (or functionality) constraints

Requires expertise and support from other functions

Involves a unique (to you or the organisation) scope of work

Using a project team approach will help you to achieve the beneficial gain in a structured, controlled and cost effective way.

How is project management related to other initiatives?

Total Quality Management (TQM)

The introduction of TQM aims to encourage ‘divine discontent’ in staff and to give them the tools to achieve continuous improvements in the way they work. Improvement projects use the principles of project management especially where the improvements are cross functional ones.

TQM looks critically at the operational side of the business using a project management methodology to implement the improvements.

Performance Management

Performance management brings together all the best practice for managing staff to achieve their full potential. Effective project leaders use all the principles of performance management to motivate the team but do not have the authority of a line manager.

Business Process Re-Engineering (BPR)

BPR focuses on optimising the processes in an organisation and, if necessary, redesigning them to meet the customer’s needs. In a major survey on BPR by the Harvard Business School Review the second most significant factor in the recent failure of BPR initiatives was the lack of Project Management expertise and culture. The first was the failure to analyse and understand the process requirements. The research and the implementation should be managed as a project.

What is the Project Management Methodology?

If a project has a beginning and an end, what is its life cycle and how is it managed?

To be effective and workable project methodologies should be appropriate to the task and the organisation.

For simple projects in a small organisation, agreed milestones, a few checklists and someone to steer the project are all that are required.

For complex projects in a large organisation a more structured approach is needed, to set up and approve the project, monitor and guides its progress, solve its problems, deliver the end product (or gain) and close it down.

In order to understand the methodology we need to look at the project life cycle. The detailed life cycle will be dependent upon the size and type of organisation and the size and type of the project. However, in outline they all have very similar elements.

 The Project Life Cycle

Project Management stages diagram


A typical methodology would involve a number of stages and activities which occur at different parts of the life cycle.

Doesn’t Project Management stifle creativity?

No - in fact a well managed project will encourage cross functional creativity because that is what is needed in ‘change projects’. An experienced project manager will know when to tap into this creativity and when to drive the project forward. It is only when project methodologies become bureaucratic and override common sense that creativity can be stifled.

So what does a Project Manager do?

Typically a project manager will be nominated to lead a project and will be expected to be fully accountable for meeting its objectives. The project manager will be the leader of the project team and will be responsible for ensuring the following are completed in a timely way:-

What skills does a project manager need?

Very broad skills and a deal of experience are needed to manage a large project successfully. They include business knowledge, technical skills and individual and team leadership skills.

Individual Skills

The personal skills are likely to include good presentation and persuasive skills, good written skills but allied to goal orientation, high energy and credibility.

N.B. Having high energy does not mean you play squash five times a week but that you have the intellectual energy and commitment to deliver the project with a positive ‘we can do it’ team approach. Good project managers know their own strengths and weaknesses and will compensate for these in selecting the team.

Team Skills

They will appreciate the differing needs of both individuals and the project team at different stages of the project. They will be aware of different team types.

Technical Skills

They will have technical skills in setting objectives, planning complex tasks, negotiating resource, financial planning, contract management, monitoring skills, managing creative thinking and problem solving, as well as their own specialist topic.

What tools and techniques are used?

Project managers use a number of tools and techniques during a project life cycle such as:-

Verifiable objective setting

This ensures that the objectives for the project can be measured and verified to ensure that they have been met.

Brain storming

This technique is used at all stages of the project to encourage creative thinking and solve problems

Work Breakdown Structures

This is a technique to analyse the content of work and cost by breaking it down into its component parts. It is produced by :-

Below is a work breakdown structure for the recruitment of a new person to fill a vacant post.

Work Breakdown Structure Diagram


 Project Evaluation Review Technique (PERT)

Network analysis or PERT is used to analyse the inter-relationships between the tasks identified by the work breakdown structure and to define the dependencies of each task. Whilst laying out a PERT chart it is often possible to see that assumptions for the order of work are not logical or could be achieved more cost effectively by re-ordering them. This is particularly true whilst allocating resources; it may become self evident that two tasks cannot be completed at the same time by the same person due to lack of working hours or, conversely, that by adding an extra person to the project team several tasks can be done in parallel thus shortening the length of the project.

Below is the PERT chart of the WBS shown above after network analysis as been applied.

PERT Chart

Critical path analysis (CPA)

CPA is used in conjunction with PERT analysis to identify the tasks that are critical in determining the overall duration of the project. In the example above the critical path is shown by the tasks with heavy outline boxes.

Milestone Planning

Milestone planning is used to show the major steps that are needed to reach the goal on time. When several tasks have been completed the milestone is reached. It is often used at senior manager reviews.

What are Milestones? Why are they called Milestones?
Imagine you are walking along the road and you see a milestone that says 20 miles to London so you keep walking and later you see one that says 10 miles to London. Now you know that you are going in the right direction and you have made some progress. That is the principle of project milestones. For example, if the project is to build a house then completing each significant chunk of work could be considered a milestone on the road to building the house. For example the milestones might be:-

For simple projects, a milestone plan may be the only plan required.

Accrued cost and earned value analysis

These measures enable the progress of the project to be monitored in financial terms.

Gantt charts

Gantt charts (named after the inventor) or bar charts, as they are sometimes called, are used to display and communicate the results of PERT and Critical Path analysis in a simple bar chart format that can be readily understood by those not involved in the detail of the project.

The PERT chart above is now displayed as a Gantt chart below .

Gantt Chart

Who else would be involved and what would they do?

A number of people may be involved depending on the size of the project. They fall into a number of groups.

The Project Sponsor

The project sponsor should be a senior person in the organisation who has the most to gain from the project’s success and the most to lose if it fails.

The Steering Team

The steering team may only be one person on a small project (perhaps the project sponsor) who meets informally with the project manager. On a large project a formal cross functional senior team will be set up to meet regularly to review progress and provide strategic guidance.

Functional or line managers

The line manager of each team member will want to be kept informed about the progress of the project and be involved in setting of individual objectives.

The project customer

The project ‘customer’ should either be a member of the steering team or represented on that team.

What are the main roles and responsibilities?

There are three key roles in the management of projects whether they are service development projects, organisational change projects, TQM projects, or facilities projects.

Top Management

Setting the conditions and culture such that the business can select and implement appropriate projects to support the business.

Middle management

Ensuring that all projects are selected, allocated, steered and closed down satisfactorily. Ensure that projects that are not approved are not worked on.

Operational staff

To use the tools and techniques to manage projects effectively.

What about running more than one project at a time?

If an organisation is considering managing a portfolio of projects it needs to consider 5 key areas:-

Commitment of the senior management team to the effective use of project management and its acceptance by staff.

People in the organisation who have been trained in the principles and practice of project management are required.

Systems that provide the information needed by senior management to manage the portfolio of projects.

A methodology that is clearly understood by everyone and which every project will follow.

An organisational structure to select the projects that support the strategy, guide them, prioritise them and close them down.

Is there a hierarchy of project managers in project management?

Yes - dependent on the size of the project and the number of projects in the portfolio, an organisation may require several people to lead different projects or significant stages of a major project. There are generally 3 management levels but the title ‘senior’ may be added to differentiate between experienced (or full time) project managers and those who have less experience or are part time project managers.

Programme Manager (sometimes known as a Change Manager)

The Programme Manager is responsible to the Senior Management for the portfolio of projects under his control. The role is a strategic one. He or she will have command of Project Managers and Project Leaders who report for individual projects. The Programme Manager is responsible for ensuring that the portfolio of projects deliver the beneficial business gain intended.

Project Manager

A Project Manager is experienced in the skills and disciplines of project management, may manage more than one project at a time and may have Project Leaders as directly reporting staff.

Project Leader

A project leader usually manages a project stage or a small project where his or her particular skills or expertise are a large part of the work. A Project Leader may report to a Project Manager or to the Programme Manager.

How do I get started?

As with most other things in life, good preparation is essential to success. In practice this requires that you spend time discussing agreeing and then approving:-

Often it is not possible to define the overall requirements until some feasibility work has been done, in which case a short feasibility study may be required. Once feasibility has been established and approved then the work may be planned in the appropriate detail. This process of planning will help the team to understand its mission better and resolve outstanding research questions. The next stage is to implement the plans and monitor progress continuously until the goal is achieved. The final stage is to close down and review the project so that the lessons learnt are passed on to the next project.

Where can I get help?

Firstly, look inside your own organisation, you will be surprised at the knowledge and experience available to you if you just ask.

Other sources of help are:

Reading List

The Handbook of Project-Based Management - JR Turner, McGraw Hill, ISBN 007 7076567

The Skills of Leadership - John Adair, Gower, ISBN 0 7045 0555 X

Implementing Projects - Trevor L Young, The Industrial Society, ISBN 0 85290 880 6

Planning Projects - Trevor L Young, The Industrial Society, ISBN 0 85290 879 2

Project Leadership - Briner, Geddes and Hastings, Gower, ISBN 0566 02475 6

Advance Project Management - F L Harrison, Gower, ISBN 0 566 02475 6

Handbook of Project Management - D Lock, Gower, ISBN 0 566 07391 9