Project Management: The People Pitfall

August 23 2018 | by Valerie Higgins

Today, more than ever before, firms need to be investing in Project Management training. There is a clear need within the industry to invest in project management training as well as developing your own project management standards and processes. It’s an investment that will impact project performance and most likely your bottom line. The 2018 Deltek AE Clarity report indicates that only 47% of firms are using a formal project management process for 75% or more of their projects. 39% of the firms responding report that less than one-quarter of their project leaders have had formal project management training.

However, is Project Management training the only thing your firm should focus on? To fully develop a Best Practices approach to Project Management within your firm there are three key components to focus on; People, Processes, and Technology.

In this first of a three-part blog series, we will review the People component of developing and engaging your Project Management team for excellence in performance and optimal success in project delivery.

1. Develop a Formal and Documented Description of the Project Manager Role(s) Within Your Firm.

Whether it’s internal or a new hire, the first step in finding the right people is to develop a formal, documented description of what the role as a Project Manager would look like within your firm. This description should include responsibilities, education and experience requirements, technical competencies, and leadership competencies. Also, it should consist of a general overview or “mission” statement such as this one:

“Project manager is responsible for the direction, coordination, implementation, executive, control, and completion of projects while remaining aligned with strategy, commitments, and goals of the organization.”

Keep in mind that you may require more than one defined role, for example, your firm may have both Project Managers and Senior Project Managers.

2. Define the Path Within Your Organization to Become a Project Manager.

Many firms, specifically small to mid-sized firms, do not have a documented career path for Project Managers. In firms where registered professionals are wearing many hats, defining the path is a way to assess those team members who want to and should be promoted to a Project Manager role.

Does this sound familiar? Your firm hires a graduate, they work under a licensed professional for the required number of years, pass their exam and gain their professional registration. Then one magical day they are handed a project and voila they are now a Project Manager. The expectation is to hit the ground running. This frequent scenario typically omits to educate the team member on the requirements of a Project Manager or a formal path and milestones assessment process to ensure that the appropriate training is provided and expectations are clearly understood.

Defining the path will set your team up for success.

3. Engage your Project Managers to Drive Performance and Improve.

Engaged employees are more productive employees. You can bolster your success by utilizing the right tools when assessing candidates for the Project Manager role as well as identifying, engaging, and developing their natural strengths. According to The Gallup Business Journal, “… companies who applied best-practice principles optimizing employee and customer engagement at the workgroup level, for example, outperformed their five largest peers by 26% in gross margin and 85% in sales growth.” Utilizing a Strength Finder coach to assist with the development of your Project Management team can have an exponential payoff in project financial performance, client relationship management, and employee retention.

4. Document Performance Measurement Goals and Rewards.

Many firms distribute bonuses on overall company performance, team performance, or a wild guess at individual Project Manager performance. If you are determining bonus and merit increases based on anything other than a documented performance measurement guideline you could demotivate your Project Managers. When documenting performance measurement goals for your Project Management team, be detailed and concise, include specific metrics and reports, determine utilization and realization rates goals, the impact of write-offs, and post-project review results. Your team is more likely to be motivated and engaged when there is a defined target and understanding of potential rewards.

Consistency and follow up is key here.

5. Training is Not a One and Done Function

Your employees are your most valuable asset, and it is imperative for training to be an ongoing objective. External Project Management training, workshops, and seminars all add value, and many taught by leaders in the field, such as PSMJ and A/E/C PMA, will focus on best practices, risk mitigation, protecting profit margins, client management, and satisfaction, as well as information on current market trends and growth opportunities. Internal Project Management training is equally important.

Most firms today have or are migrating to Accounting and Project Management (ERP) software packages. Unfortunately, after the investment and the transition is complete, there is typically no follow up training for the Project Management team. Having real-time reports and project management tools is fantastic – if your team receives training on how to use them. If your firm has already had an internal workshop or boot camp – don’t stop there! Continue holding monthly, or bi-monthly team meetings where topics surround project management tasks, challenges, reporting, areas to find efficiencies, and lessons learned reviews of completed projects. Engaging your Project Managers in regular internal team training will keep them motivated and connected to their team and company goals. The more they share and collaborate they will gain efficiencies in producing top quality project delivery and build trusting relationships with each other.

Next Steps

If people are one of your biggest challenges to maximizing your success – reach out today and let’s continue the conversation.

Now, it’s time to check out part 2 of our PM blog series where we’ll tackle the Process component of Project Management. Moreover, if you are looking for even more insight into successfully managing projects and people, register for our upcoming complimentary webinar, Optimizing People & Projects for Higher Performance.

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