The problem with our projects… - [website] Email Print
Published: 17th of Aug 2018 by: Debbie

As facilitators we are in the position where we often hear what goes wrong with projects rather than what goes right. Delegates bring their challenges to us, so clearly this is exactly what we should be hearing. More often than not we establish that what went wrong is that the very concept of what a project is, is not being understood. We would thus like to challenge you to a slightly new approach.

As individuals we are inclined to see a project as a rather large development involving multiple role players and various stages of development all within the constraints of a budget, the expected quality of delivery and the time agreed to. Well this is not incorrect, but neither is it entirely correct.

A project does not have to be large...It can be the simple revamping of a small filing system, or the take on of changes to a website, it can be the organising of the lunch for the directors meeting or the building of an office complex that hosts said boardroom.
The only time a project is not a project is if it has no triple constraint of quality, cost and time. Think about it…just about everything in business has that triple constraint!

When we approach the data migration of an existing company to a new programme, this is a project, a rather large one as such, depending of course on how long the company has been in progress, how many clients, products and suppliers it has and how much data is stored and in which formats.

Company A, a startup may have 10 clients with address and contact details stored, whilst Company B, established circa 2005 has 2000 clients with address, contact details, history of purchasing and client contact stored. Both of these require data migration to new platforms, both of these are projects.
To imagine thus that Company A would not need the required project management skills to ensure the success of their tiny project is simply wishful thinking…And yet…We so often hear: “Our guys do not need project management as such”

It is also almost without fail that when we hear about the challenges some delegates face, we are able to relate each of the challenges back to an aspect of project management that was not addressed correctly.

Just recently in fact there was a delegate who was faced with a situation he did not know how to handle.
His team was demotivated and conflict was escalating. They were making more and more errors on a daily basis and the results were starting to show in their ability to deliver new product on time.

We established that there were new employees in the team and that no change management had taken place. In other words there had been no briefing to the other team members as to what the new guys would be doing, there had been no proper introduction of the new team members and there had been no vision provided as to what they organisational leadership had expected from this larger team.

We unpacked a strategy against a basic project approach for the delegate. In other words he has to look at creating an inclusive, cohesive and highly functional team as a mini project. The recommendation was as follows:

1. Define the scope of what it is that you wish to achieve, involve your seniors and colleagues and gain a clear understanding of where you want to go as a team. Also understand what your scope is not – in this instance it did involve upskilling some new as well as old team members, but not cross skilling of specialist functions. The latter was in fact one of the issues that was contributing to the problem in the team as the overworked specialists were not aware that the aim of bringing in the new team members was primarily to free up some time for them, ensuring more cost effective use of time.

2. Ensure that have your measurables in place with reference to quality, cost and time.

3. Understand that as a junior manager you are contracted to deliver with a productive team.

4. Understand and mitigate the risks involved during the change and storming phase and ensure that everyone is aware of their changing responsibilities.

5. Make sure that you understand exactly who your clients are in this project and if there are any hidden clients (in this case the company clients are indeed the hidden clients)

6. Ensure that your communication platforms are set, agreed to and functional – hold regular stand up meetings focussing only on team health

7. Plot visual timelines and work break-down schedules allowing for improved accountability and authority levels

Three weeks later we met the same delegate at a different workshop. He reported that he was delighted, his challenges had just about disappeared completely. Everyone was on board and the storming phase was over, they were into norming and strongly headed to performing.

Essentially thus this delegate had used goal setting, change management techniques and team formation techniques to affect his outcome. But without the cohesive mini project management approach no matter how many theories we string together, most of them simply miss a critical element. That of process control.
The visual timelines in project management help us to drive process control.

At Staff Training we are of the opinion that the bare basics of what a project is and the main criteria associated with a project are essential for the completion of all goals.
We thus believe that this systematic approach to creating solutions and outcomes is a basic skill that should be incorporated at all levels of the organisation.


Email us at info@StaffTraining.co.za for more info on our Basic Project Management workshops and our Leading Change workshop, or give us a call at 0861 996 660. We look forward to hearing from you!






© Debbie Engelbrecht






Debbie Engelbrecht is the MD of Staff Training, established in 2001. She is a soft skills facilitator and management coach and strives to enthuse, assist and empower her fellow South Africans wherever she has the skill to do so.






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