Waking up the C Suite
PMI are launching an on-going marketing campaign surrounding the release of its Value of Project Management research study. This groundbreaking study has clearly demonstrated the link between implementing good project management practice and a solid ROI [download the Research Overview]. PMI’s campaign through 2009 is designed to get C level executives and Boards of Management to recognise and support project management in their organisations by making a compelling case for project management’s ability to positively influence bottom-line drivers.
Increasing the awareness of the value of project management among the top organisational decision-makers is the vital first step in enabling organisations to introduce the capabilities they need to achieve well executed projects (as identified by OPM3 ProductSuite). Only when executives are actively thinking about, evaluating and seeking to improve their organisation’s project management practices, that the value of well executed project, program and portfolio management can be fully realised.
Many organisations may already feel they have implemented effective project management processes and have an array of project, program and portfolio managers on staff. However, without an impartial measurement of their actual capabilities there is a high probability things are not as ‘rosy’ as senior management would like to think. There are several reasons for this:
- Taking a ‘top down’ view: Human nature tends towards optimism; experiments have shown most people feel they are ‘above average’ in any given situation. In the absence of effective benchmarking and an empirical measurement system some of the ideas in ‘prospect theory’ are likely to take over and senior management would ‘expect’ their business to be ‘above average’.
- From the opposite direction, it would require a very open culture to allow middle and junior managers to honestly inform their seniors ‘we are not very good’. In most organisations if this message is heard the messenger would be blamed.
As a consequence it is easy for senior management ‘think’ their business is in good shape and middle management is encouraged to support this view if they wish to preserve their position. The antidote is hard data and benchmarking but the only way this type of assessment can be introduced successfully is from the very top. The CEO and governing board must lead the initiative to assess the real situation with a view to investing in appropriate improvements. To achieve this, the organization has to effectively assess its current level of maturity against an appropriate ‘maturity model’. Maturity models are not new, CMMI has been around in the systems engineering space for nearly 20 years and there are several newer models focused on project management.
PMI’s OPM3 (Organizational Project Management Maturity Model) offers a unique set of benefits including a focus on all levels of project governance from portfolio alignment through program management to project management. It also provides a benchmarking capability and an improvement planning capability that can be focused on the areas of ‘improvement’ that will deliver the maximum benefit to the organisation. In short, OPM3 is complete, comprehensive and customisable, particularly is the OPM3 ProductSuite is used.
The value of using OPM3 is not in the assessment; it is in the planned improvements to the organisations processes. Most organisations have a range of ‘low hanging fruits’ that are easy to pick for quick wins (and this is important). It is also true that the payback from increasing levels of maturity may reduce as the organisation’s maturity levels increase. However, as with the quality movement (TQM) the ultimate level in an OPM3 improvement process is the ability of the organisation to continually improve. This is an essential medium term objective, because if an organisation is not continually improving it will be going backwards compared to its competition. If you are not continually improving they will be with the inevitable consequences to your ‘bottom line’ over time (just ask General Motors!).
In my experience, the critical success factors for any organisational improvement initiative are:
- Firstly top level support from the CEO and governing board (it is impossible to initiate an effective OPM3 initiative at the middle management levels).
- Secondly the willingness to invest in improvements; over 95% of the cost of any initiative will be in developing and implementing the improved processes to achieve the desired benefits – doing the OPM3 assessment is the easy bit.
- Thirdly understanding real culture change takes time, investing in an OPM3 initiative can, and should, deliver quick wins but the real benefits come from the changed attitudes and culture within the organisation and this takes several years to really bed down. And until the culture of the organisation has changed, the CEO needs to keep focused on driving the improvements needed to make the organisation successful.