Project Management

Deploying project management in a client's organization

Any change in an organization is likely to be met with resistance. Establishing a project management office could touch off a revolt if not handled correctly. These suggestions will help you ease your clients into a new way of approaching projects.


Project management methodology is a framework that allows project managers to successfully manage projects of varying sizes. Most organizations, however, don’t follow a formal, consistent methodology. I’ll describe how you can help a client deploy project management in an organization.

The project management office (PMO) can provide many services, but there’s no question that most companies will want the PMO to be responsible for building project management skills and competencies within the organization. Since there is no perfect solution that’s right for every company, I’m going to make some assumptions about the services the PMO will provide to your client’s organization. These services include creating (or buying) the project management methodology, delivering project management training and coaching, conducting project audits and organization assessments, and providing consolidated project reporting and metrics.

It’s worth noting that many companies will choose to deploy and support project management methodology on their own, and others will use consultants in one or more capacities. For instance, at a company where I previously worked, we probably had the expertise to build the PMO and deploy common project management methodology, but our CIO felt more comfortable having one of the big five consulting companies provide guidance.

Third in a series
This is another installment in a series that outlines how consultants can work with their clients to establish a project management office. Two previous columns have covered the reasons for establishing a PMO and the ways to customize a PMO for your organization.

Culture change
The key to a project like this is to recognize that getting people to become better project managers requires them to do things differently, managing projects more actively, consistently, and rigorously. It also requires different behaviors of the people who work on projects and the clients of the projects. Because we’re trying to change the way people do their jobs, this effort is an organizational change management initiative. It’s all about trying to change the culture.

Driving culture change requires much more than simply teaching new skills, although training certainly plays a part. The PMO must evaluate aspects of the organization that drive behaviors. Processes that drive good project management behaviors must be reinforced; processes that are barriers to good project management must be changed or eliminated. Resistance to the change must be accounted for, expected, and then overcome.

In some companies, it’s easier for employees to buy into the new processes if a consultant is saying they need to do it. This is similar to the dilemma many parents face with their children: The children will listen to teachers, doctors, or other outsiders, but they won’t listen to their parents. Other companies are antagonistic toward outside parties; in these companies, using a consultant partner would do more harm than good.

The environment and the vision
Many change initiatives begin when we try to define what the future will look like. However, describing the future state of project management in your client’s organization is not the major deliverable at this point. The ultimate deliverable from the initial assessment is a gap analysis that shows what you need to focus on to move the organization to where you want it to be.

The first deliverable is a current state assessment that looks at organization culture, enablers, barriers, project success rates, project roles, client attitudes, compensation systems, skill levels, standards, and working environment. You’ll get most of the information you need from a cross section of managers, staff, and clients, using interviews, surveys, and focus groups.

While you’re looking at the current environment, also ask these people what the future will look like. When you have a good picture of the state of the organization, and how the future state should look, you can create a gap analysis that shows how far the organization is from where it needs to be. You’ll use this information to create your deployment strategy and approach. Once you reach an agreement on what the future looks like and how to get there, you’ll be at a point where you can move forward with the deployment project.

Deploy in waves
Since you’re probably introducing a number of changes in how people do their work, it’s important to deploy products and services at different times. Like waves rolling toward the beach, certain aspects of the new project management culture should be deployed in waves; the PMO then pauses before rolling out the next wave.

In many cases, one wave builds on a prior wave. After a while, you will have introduced many new skills and new processes, but the staff will not have been as traumatized as if everything came crashing down on them at once.

The deployment waves touch on all the aspects of the organization that need to be dealt with to effectively change the culture. A sample list follows:
  • Conduct general awareness sessions to explain what is coming and why.
  • Provide basic project management training focused on up-front definition and planning skills.
  • Introduce standard project management processes and templates.
  • Roll out project management coaching services to help project managers use the training and templates effectively.
  • Align the rewards and recognition systems by tying a portion of the staff’s performance review and bonus criteria to the successful implementation and use of the project management methodology.
  • Implement a document repository to hold the common processes, templates, best practices, and standards.
  • Reinforce the management governance process to ensure that senior and middle management are implementing the new initiative within their organizations.
  • Introduce ongoing and random project audits and periodic organization assessments.
  • Teach advanced project management classes focused on more sophisticated processes such as quality management, metrics management, and risk management. Support the new training concepts with more sophisticated processes and templates.
  • Build a PMO support organization to handle the project management methodology on a long-term basis.

Deploying project management processes and building project management capability in an organization requires much more than simply training the staff and walking away. There is a process that must be followed to move the organization toward its vision. Once the work is understood, you should divide it into smaller pieces, implemented in successive waves throughout the organization, so the process will have a better chance of success throughout the organization.

Tom Mochal is president of TenStep, Inc., a project management consulting and training firm. Recently, he was director of internal development at Geac, Inc., a major ERP software company. He’s worked for Coca-Cola, Eastman Kodak, and Cap Gemini Ernst & Young. Tom has developed a project management methodology called TenStep and an application support methodology called SupportStep.

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