Each week, project management veteran Tom Mochal provides valuable advice about how to plan and manage projects. Tom first describes a common problem scenario, based on real-life situations. He then offers a solution, using practical project management practices and techniques.

The dilemma
My manager, Wayne, and I were discussing the 2001 budget for a project that would continue our company’s effort to build project management skills.

“Tom, you’ve done a good job in the role of project mentor,” Wayne said. “I’ve been getting very good feedback from all over the organization. We need to renew your funding for next year. What do you think about filling a second project mentor position as well? That will double our capability to build project management skills within Blue Sky Manufacturing.”

“If the IT division wants to build project management competencies, I think we need to do more than just train people in a new skill,” I told him. “If we’re really going to change the culture of how we manage projects, we need to take a more holistic approach.”

Wayne agreed. “Sounds like you’ve been thinking about this already. How do you think we should proceed?”

The solution
“We need to treat our effort to change the culture as we would a project—and that means securing funding for it,” I said. “The initiative needs to address all aspects of the corporate culture that reward and reinforce the way we manage and work on projects. This includes training, coaching, compensation, communication, and methodology. We’re also going to need strong support from our CIO and senior management team.”

“Our CIO says she wants to increase core competencies for the entire IT organization, and that project management skills are essential to our future,” Wayne said. “Let’s put together a well-rounded proposal. I’ll start talking to the executive management staff and see what happens.”

Mentor advice
The simplest definition of corporate culture is, “It’s the way we do things around here.” An organization’s culture affects the way projects are managed within it. Making major changes to the culture within a large organization requires more than training and coaching. In fact, the initiative must have resources, focus, a sponsor, and specific objectives to achieve. In other words, the project must change the old habits and reinforce the new ones.

Introducing discipline to the project management process at Blue Sky Manufacturing is no exception. Since it’s a large organization, a multiyear project needs to be established. This project will look at and help change all of the aspects of the organization that hinder success. It will also reinforce positive influences and build new behaviors. There are a number of ways this initiative can be planned and executed. Even so, a holistic approach may take up to three years to take hold in a large organization. This may seem extreme, but if the initiative is not addressed holistically, it will ultimately be ineffective—no matter how long it takes.

Project management veteran Tom Mochal is director of internal development at a software company in Atlanta. Most recently, he worked for the Coca-Cola Company, where he was responsible for deploying, training, and coaching the IS division on project management and life-cycle skills. He’s also worked for Eastman Kodak and Cap Gemini America and has developed a project management methodology called TenStep.

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