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Project Status Reviews

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We were very grateful to Babcock (APM Corporate members), for organising and generously hosting this event at their offices in Bristol on Tuesday 31st January 2012. Following networking and some excellent refreshments, Pete Rickets, Head of Project Management, discussed Babcocks Marine, Technology, Systems and Equipment & approach to project status reviews.

Pete explained that the projects delivered for their customers are technically complex and involved the integrity of submarine pressure hulls.  Many projects are in the 2-3M bracket, and range up to 50M. They often prove challenging to manage and to deliver within budget, but are still critical to Babcocks reputation with its customers. The challenge for their project managers is to deliver to time, cost and performance, and to deliver a profit!

The Project Status Review process was developed from a detailed project review which uncovered some key concerns on a project.  The reviews are complementary to technical and financial reviews (cost reviews), but are focussed on project management practice.

They are in three parts, of 1.5 hrs each, evidence based, and do not require the project manager to prepare:
Part 1 examines whether the project manager understands what he needs to do the requirement.
Part 2 examines whether he has a plan for doing it.
Part 3 reviews progress against the plan on a regular basis. 
Parts 1 & 2 are part of project initiation and normally only done once.

For each review, there are 10 areas to be assessed and scored. For example, evidence that the technical requirements are clearly defined and understood; evidence that the required deliverables, e.g. hardware, documentation, test equipment, are defined and understood; evidence that acceptance events are defined and understood.

Pete leads the reviews and ensures that lessons are noted and systematic issues used to update the Babcock project management system. He explained that the approach by the reviewers is critical to success.  A constructive, supportive, critical friend, offer mentoring and support is essential to create an open no surprises culture in the organisation. This is fully supported by senior leaders in Babcock and after some 12 months in operation, project managers are also accepting its value. The reviews have identified areas where projects have needed support which might otherwise not have been found.

There are not just benefits for individual projects and project managers, but also corporately. As more reviews have been done, it has been possible to identify systematic areas where Project Managers need support and opportunities to improve project management processes, training and development. Babcock has already seen an increase in project managers skill levels, and there is evidence of more consistency of project management practice across the organisation.

Pete summed up that the Project Status Review process was providing real benefit, but noted that in their business, even with the best PMs, processes and tools, a project will still struggle if they cannot solve any engineering and technical issues.  But good project management does help identify critical areas for action.


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