Projects are an important part of any organisation. When companies do something different for their routine activities, they resort to projects as a vehicle. For instance, mergers or restructuring, implementing improvement initiatives, or developing new products or services.
Stripped down to essentials, a project is about a clear set of goals, a plan, and resources to execute the plan. Projects are not just about the nuts and bolts. They’re about the bigger questions confronting managers. How to frame the project, understand complexity and uncertainty, manage stakeholders and teams, et cetera. Projects are often put in very difficult circumstances. And having a high performance team is essential to the effectiveness of the project leader.
The objective of this programme is to improve the project capabilities of the participants, whether they lead a project, have oversight responsibility, or are a user. All projects have complexity, uncertainty, resource constraints, and multiple actors. So the first set of challenges is to manage these elements while accomplishing the goals. The management style needs to fit the goal of the project. And this is the second category of challenges.
One common pitfall is that managers are good at tracking activities. They are less good at understanding and working with the actors behind the activities– team members, stakeholders, partners, and such. A second pitfall is one I’ve mentioned earlier. They do not adapt the management approach to fit the nature of the project.
Is the project about executing a very clear plan? Is it about charting new territory as a new product development? Or is it about managing an organisational initiative? Another common pitfall is that projects tend to lose alignment with strategy. The original strategy may have changed, but the project has not adapted sufficiently.
Managers need to find ways of influencing the behaviours of stakeholders so that the stakeholders support the project or, at the very least, do not become significant obstacles. An important task of the project leader is to make sure that the stakeholders are managed with the same attention to detail as activities, resources, and project teams.
Every session in the programme has clear messages in the form of takeaways. The takeaways consist of a synthesis of concepts and practical tools that you can use in your own projects. I am keenly aware that participants look to satisfy two types of objectives– personalisation, that is linking content with your past and current experiences and future aspirations. And contextualisation, linking content with your current organisation context and the broader business environment. I believe that in our discussions we can attain a balance between them so that one informs the other.