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Room for improvement

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The word ‘legacy’ has rather grand connotations. It has become commonplace in the national lexicon after being used so frequently in relation to the London 2012 Olympic Games, expressing the desire of the UK to host a global event with enduring positive benefits that lasted beyond the games themselves.

In the world of project management, however, the connotation of ‘legacy’ is slightly different. Rather than implying an indelible footprint, it suggests a work in progress – recognising room for improvement. Of course, this is exactly what we should be doing continuously as a profession, to drive through improvement and excellence, adding value to the role of a project manager.

There is often a perception that a project review will focus on mistakes. In fact, it is equally important to identify what went right to repeat success – even more so when we consider that errors are accidental, while successes are more likely to have been planned.

Start with a legacy
To be truly effective, the learning legacy process is not something that should be introduced as a project completes. It must be integral to the process from the outset, which involves our most precious resource, time, closely followed by what should be our most valuable skill, listening.

All project management firms – and my own is no exception – have their preferred processes and procedures, and the temptation is to impose these on our clients because ‘it’s the way we do it around here’.

In fact, the enlightened among us will keep the client at the centre and adapt our ways of working around how to achieve a successful output.

Spending time upfront with the key stakeholders in a project is vital to identify what success will look like, what the project comprises and then, within that, which elements are critical, which are flexible and where the risks and quick wins are.

We must never forget that we are a people profession too and it is wise to consider the chemistry of the team. This means ensuring that the right people are in the right positions to do the job and that they work as a collective.

If we listen properly, identify agreed objectives succinctly and communicate consistently throughout a project’s duration then, in theory, any issues are dealt with along the way and amendments to systems and processes are embedded in real time rather than at the project’s completion.

The way to really improve upon the lessons we learn is to be open-minded to continuous improvement throughout the duration of a project while still maintaining a ‘big picture’ view. This way, the discrepancies in the detail will be captured and dealt with immediately. In turn, this will avoid any escalation.

Projects are about the client; the role of the project manager is to realise their objectives and aspirations in the most efficient and effective way possible. We must continue to learn and improve for the benefit of present and future clients, as well as adding to our own knowledge and to the role of a project manager.

Colin is Managing Director for Artelia UK and this article first appeared in the 2015 Winter edition of Project Journal.


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