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Organisational project management event 19th April 2016

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The SWWE branch was very pleased to have invited Trevor Band to share his views of a topic that is rarely discussed, that of organisational project management (OPM).

The event was kindly hosted at Atkins’ offices at the Hub, Aztec West, Bristol.

Trevor started his presentation with a question. With so many trained and qualified project managers, why do so many projects still fail?  What is missing in our project organisations? Looking at the OGC 9 reasons for project failure, the majority of them are linked to organisations inability to manage projects, with a lack of senior leadership and governance. Organisations are usually structured to deliver Business as Usual as efficiently as possible and so the seeds of project failure are frequently built into the finance, HR and governance systems, which are not able to support projects effectively. 

The history of organisations is reflected by mankind’s development from the Tribal age through to the current Information age with globalisation and the internet. What this means for organisations is still being worked through. Businesses are increasingly struggling to cope. 50% of current jobs could be automated out of existence; on demand services such as Uber are opening up ‘closed’ market places. To remain employed, generation Z have to have new skills to survive and have different expectations of work and organisations.   Surveys show that only 13% of employees are actively engaged, with 24% actively disengaged. Research shows that $3 trillion is wasted on failed projects each year around the world.  So what can organisations do about these challenges?

Organisational project management is about creating places where both people and projects thrive, it is concerned with organisational development required to deliver projects. There are three main thrusts: Has the organisation been designed to run both BAU and projects at the same time?; how much does an organisation invest into self managing, collaborative team working?; is the attention solely fixed on improving PM essentials: the PM tools and techniques at the expense of organisation and team working? Typically investment is only in PM essentials and is therefore unbalanced.

Currently there is little published on OPM. PMI try and stitch together portfolio, programme and project management, but this is a very narrow view. Trevor argued for new ways of thinking, and discussed ideas from a number of preeminent thinkers.  Emotions are increasingly recognised as being essential to understand: projects are managed by people, who think and feel, not by machines. Agile organisations with self organising teams, no functions, or management authority are already successfully used by successful companies. The use of neuroscience to understand how human beings work and make decisions; we are far less rational than we like to think. Gaining competitive advantage though understanding what customers want better than they do to meet their demand for customisation. New leadership skills, flexible business model design, PM tools and techniques aligned to business codes of practice, and the development of agile teams.
Trevor outlined his personal view of OPM. Currently the majority of investment by organisations and indeed professional bodies such as APM and PMI is focussed  on the lower level PM Essentials:  BoKs, competence frameworks, qualifications, MSP, P30, etc, i.e. on the individual. OPM sits above this ‘normal’ stuff, and looks at organisational development, culture, strategic alignment, leadership and governance, etc.  It is about how to develop organisations to be great at delivering successful projects and so reduce the $3 trillion level of waste worldwide. He discussed how organisations are changing to adapt to the challenges of the Information age and how the project profession is under threat and the challenges it faces. It needs to become more engaged with the CEO level and the other traditional professions, it needs to focus not only on developing the skills of individual PMs, but also on how to develop an organisation’s skills and competence to deliver successful projects.

Martin Gosden thanked Trevor for a really unique insight in to a little covered area of project management, but one that is essential for the future if APM is to realise its vision that ‘all projects succeed’.  It needs to be recognised that not only do we need competent project managers and project professionals, but we also need organisations that are competent to facilitate those project professionals to deliver successful projects.  In the future, APM has a challenge to provide support for the development of individuals as well as organisations.

The presentation slides are available on the APM web site Resources page and show below.

Martin Gosden
SWWE Branch Chairman


Apm Organisational project management presentation April 2016 from Colin Baker


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