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Spark Efficient Project Management With These 3 Steps

Here's how you can give your project management efforts the jolt of energy they need.

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In our ever-shifting business landscape, more organizations realize projects that were once ancillary to overall business operations have become fundamental to how they function, solve problems, and innovate. Unfortunately, most organizations aren’t proficient in the art and science of efficient project management — and it costs them.

A 2020 report from the Project Management Institute found that subpar project management processes account for 11% of wasted company resources. And companies that don’t develop project management as an organizational practice report 67% higher failure rates.

Related: 10 Project Management Hacks That Will Help New Project Managers Find Success

It’s clear that companies need to start prioritizing project management, but what does inefficient project management look like? And how can leaders improve project management?

Project management mishaps explained

To answer these questions, let’s outline the fundamentals of project management -- the people, processes, tools and governance. When you reflect on what prevents a project from coming to fruition, you must examine these ingredients together.

For instance, do you lack best practices around schedule, budget, requirements management or benefits realization? What do your standards look like? Do you lack efficient tools, processes or methodologies? Is poor leadership creating bottlenecks around communication? Do you have gaps in your existing governance model? These roadblocks can prevent you from consistently delivering project results.

Related: 5 Project Management Mistakes That Can Harm Your Business

You also waste the opportunity to execute a mission that could future-proof your company. Presumably, your project set out to solve a problem. How much will it cost you not to fix that problem? Will it cut off new revenue streams for your business?

Companies that try to stick to the status quo aren’t just treading water -- they’re actively sinking.

Setting up your projects for success

Successful project management could be the difference between a thriving enterprise and a flailing startup. To drive more value through project-based work, start with these steps.

1. Embrace change management

Investing in project management is an acknowledgment that change (culture or otherwise) is needed. When change is something that a company welcomes and allows for, project management prospects can prosper.

Change is never easy, though. The more structure you can create around the process, the better off you’ll be. For its 2020 edition of “Best Practices in Change Management,” Prosci asked more than 8,000 change management leaders to identify the greatest contributing factors to a strong initiative. Resoundingly, respondents pointed to a deliberate, clear approach as a critical piece of the puzzle -- and for good reason.

Structure helps you stay on track, enabling you to allocate enough time for meaningful pursuits while giving you the room to recognize and address gaps along the way. A formal structure also enables better scalability, and Prosci determined that leaders who use a structured methodology are 33% more likely to execute effectively.

When creating the structure around change management, you must outline your goals, develop a plan to achieve those goals (more on that in a minute), build a dedicated change management team, and establish a control process to track your progress. In doing these four things, you’ll set the stage for better project management.

Related: 6 Points Along an Entrepreneur’s Journey to Change Management

2. Build a road map

Once you have a structure in place and know where you’d like to go, you must begin the process of deciding how you’ll get there. In other words, you need to develop a road map.

At Project Assistants, we developed the Vision, Implement, Adopt (VIA) Methodology to drive organizational improvement through project-based work. When I work with our clients to develop a road map, I first determine which tactical initiatives will be required to achieve their organizational vision. For each initiative, I develop/craft a project charter, which is a concise document that outlines the project in full (e.g., the objectives, the stakeholders, the logistics of carrying out the project).

Next, I prioritize and sequence those initiatives to determine the order in which they should be completed. At the end of this process, our clients will have their road map, which they’ll implement and adopt company wide.

The VIA Methodology is instrumental for all manner of organizational improvements. For example, a large pharmacy chain once enlisted us to overhaul its risk management. We coached the client through that process with the VIA methodology by plotting out its objectives, compiling the charter and devising a path there. This course of action kept the initiative on track and the desired outcome in clear focus.

3. Trust the process

When you’re working on a high-stakes project, emotions can run high. It’s easy for anxiety to spiral when you receive a significant change order. But the project management process is just that -- a process. When you properly understand what project management is and why it is that way, you can trust that process.

For instance, your road map is an invaluable tool. But by the time you chart your plans, develop tactical initiatives and complete portions of your projects, there’s a good chance something will have changed (e.g., the economy fluctuated, technology advanced, scope creep set in). It’s the nature of our world today. That’s why you need to be armed with an ongoing adoption strategy so you can bob and weave as you go.

Improving your project portfolio management (PPM) will also help you react to change continuously. Most organizations review their slate of projects once a year, but that’s a short-sighted approach that invites trouble. PPM is about periodically outlining the benefits of different projects and selecting the ones with the greatest benefits. You can then kill the projects that aren’t serving your overall mission and pursue the ones that will catapult your business forward.

Projects are vehicles for change and innovation at modern companies, yet very few organizations understand how to manage these projects effectively -- and it’s hurting their chances of long-term survival. Follow the previous three steps to execute projects and it will drive your business forward and keep you out in front of your competitors.

Gus Cicala

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Gus Cicala is the founder and CEO of Project Assistants, whose mission is to eliminate project failure through project staffing, consulting and managed services.