Have we forgotten what 'good' looks like?

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The current opportunity for the project management profession to excel is huge.

The well-documented scale of existing and planned projects is compounded by the urgency of the incoming administration to manage the realities of the current economic position. Effective prioritisation, effective implementation and delivery of benefits mean that all aspects of the profession whether project, programme or portfolio management are at a premium.

The large share of activity undertaken within the public sector brings with it the intense scrutiny of the National Audit Office (NAO) and the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), a level of public scrutiny to which private sector projects are seldom subject.

It is said that doctors working in the Accident and Emergency wards of busy hospitals sometimes forget what a healthy body looks like, because they become so accustomed to dealing relentlessly with breakages, pain and damage.

Perhaps reading the latest NAO or PAC report on a high profile and complex government project in difficulty can produce a similar effect.

That is not to say that the issues described in such reports do not exist, that they do not require urgent remedial attention, or that the profession should be complacent about them. Far from it, and raising the standards and recognition of project management forms a major plank in APMs current campaign for increased professionalism.

But this high level of public scrutiny, together with what appears to be the intrinsically self-critical nature of the profession, means that acknowledging the good can sometimes be neglected.

There are plenty of success stories whether the iconic examples of Emirates Stadium or HS1, or early 2012 successes such as the Olympics Power Lines Undergrounding Project (PLUG) which won APM Project of the Year in 2009. This project was a huge success, delivered in half the time of the industry norm, on budget and with an impressive health and safety record.
And so we should take time to recognise the recent NAO report on the Home Office, which commends the Home Office for the positive steps taken to improve the way it manages its portfolio of major projects, and considerably improved its processes in a well thought through, structured and  comprehensive way. Crucially, the report goes on to state that This is to be welcomed both for the Home Office, but also as a paradigm for the rest of government.

With project management emerging as a universally-acknowledged strategic component of the UKs existing and future skills mix, we should not allow justified criticism to blind us to what good, and getting better, looks like.

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