Organizational Project Management: Linking Strategy and Projects

Book review by Gerald Mulenburg, PMP

Organizational Project Management

Organizational Project Management

Gerry Mulenburg published a book review for the Product Development and Management Association.
Book Review: Organizational Project Management
By Rosemary Hossenlopp, Ed., 2010. Management Concepts, Inc., Vienna VA. 187 pages.

Finally, we have a book that addresses the missing connection between project management and the larger organization—“Organizational Project Management.” Clearly recognized by many, a major disconnect occurs in many organizations between those wanting projects done and those doing projects. And, unfortunately, even when recognized, this gap is often only addressed in isolated, sporadic ways—until now. Editor Rosemary Hossenlopp says this book is written “…for those individuals who fund projects, direct projects, or conduct project work” (p. xviii).

Concisely presented in a relatively small, readable, paperback, this book addresses a significant oversight in the project management literature. In a series of short articles by active practitioners, consultants and practicing academics, it provides practical wisdom for both managers and project managers to improve project value to organizations. In this context, success is not just meeting the scope, schedule and cost parameters, which we often don’t do very well. The true measure of project success is the value that project results provide to the organization. Described by Hossenlopp, “Project management is the bridge between what an organization is and what it needs to become” (p. xvii). This bridge, the book emphasizes, is experiencing great strain due to the unmet needs for change in many organizations, and strengthening this bridge requires new organizational capabilities to face the challenges of the future.

The title of the book, “Organizational Project Management,” captures both the role of the organization and that of project management, often viewed as separate entities but both integral parts of the same fabric of organizational strategy. These two elements demand a tight connection between project work and the organization’s objectives. The goal of organizational project management, says Hosselnopp, is to “…rethink how to make project work count—how to ensure that it delivers business results and outcomes” (p. xviii). To do this requires overcoming some project management myths.

The first myth is that project management is about project managers; organizational project management is about delivering strategic value. The second myth is that project management is about skill development; organizational project management is about providing leadership. The third myth is that you must improve project maturity; improvement must change organizational project maturity. And the fourth myth says that project management is successful project work; organizational project management is about supporting business goals. To overcome these myths the book points out, requires adjustments to the mental models that continue to propagate these myths.

The book’s first article by Russ McDowell, Delivering Business Results from Enterprise Strategy, provides grounding in organizational project management and becomes the foundation for the rest of the book. McDowell defines how organizational project management contributes to organizational success as “…the systematic management of projects, programs, and portfolios in alignment with the organization’s business goals” (p. 3). His focus is not on doing projects right, but on doing the right projects for the right reasons to meet operational and organizational needs. “Organizations do not benefit from undertaking projects” (p. 6)! The need is to deliver results that will add value, which McDowell calls outcome management. This requires identifying how, when and what resources are needed compared with the benefits to be achieved. He recommends taking baby-steps to achieve organizational project management by first building on existing processes and then improving on maturity one step at a time. This strategy uses organizational project management in a holistic way, building a bridge from organizational strategy to operational value. To do this, two additional articles discuss how best to align project work to achieve organizational strategy.

The first of these articles by Jim Sloane is Organizational Alignment: The Intersection of Strategy and Project Work. Sloane cogently describes aligning the organization to project management as “…the process of linking business improvement strategy with corporate vision, goals, objectives, and strategy” (p. 21). He emphasizes the need for upper management to take more of a project view of the organization and for project managers to take more of a management view of projects. To achieve this, management needs to change its thinking about projects as tactical initiatives and give project managers the authority and accountability “…for delivering the project benefits…” (p. 26). To accomplish this Sloane says, “…the (project manager) PM needs to think more like a CEO of a small enterprise, and upper management needs to think more like a PM” (p. 26).

One way for the project manager to fit into this role Sloane says, is to encompass the business plan goal for the project into the project plan itself, incorporating the desired business benefits into the plan, execution and control of the project.

In the second alignment article, How to Align Project Work with Strategic Vision, author Raju Rao describes aligning the organization with projects as “… connecting what you intend to achieve to what you are doing” (p. 36, author’s italics). Rao provides some alignment methods to try and identifies the critical factors involved that include, the dynamic nature of projects, the variability and unpredictability of human behavior, and the multiplicity of different organizational types involved in projects. Perhaps the key question identified in this article, Rao says, is whether the organization values projects for accomplishing its goals.

Two additional articles focus more on the leader’s roles involved. Proven Business-leader Actions for Project Success by Michel O’Brochta looks specifically at actions for how-to accomplish project success: “The most essential business-leader actions are organizing work into projects and picking the right projects.” (p. 60, author’s italics) In Executive Imperatives: The Role of Project Sponsorship in Organizational Success, sponsorship expert Randall Englund asks the key question, “How do you inspire and lead motivated people to discover and implement effective project practices” (p. 73)? He then outlines goals for executives and project sponsors to create excellence in, and excellence through, projects. Englund emphasizes the need to create what he calls a green environment in organizations that requires trust, cooperation, common purpose, shared vision, open communication and respect. This is a tall order addressed by Folake Dosunmu in the article, Successful Business Transformation. Dosunmu provides vignettes about companies that did just that and what was involved to accomplish it. He says, “Strong leadership and the support of senior managers are the most important factors” (p. 105).

Because organizational culture has a strong effect on project management, an article by Abdur Badar titled The Effect of Culture on Projects, describes cultural effects involved in projects, and provides poignant information and a methodology for how organizations can develop a culture that is conducive to projects. This, he says, is accomplished by developing a common ideology, a body of ideas, and an identity that connects strategies and projects. Senior leadership needs to bridge project and organizational work, and determine whether the current environment supports their organization’s project needs, and if it doesn’t, to clearly articulate what needs to change. A compliance mentality can complicate this, Badar says, due to conflict with fast-paced change that requires establishing an identity and clear vision to be sure that any subcultures involved are appropriate to the organizational goals. Three essential things are to create an identity focused on long-range goals with a willingness to collaborate, tolerate failure and be adaptable. This requires central control via the project manager, sponsor engagement and team performance to create a culture of trust for mutual enrichment in the organization so projects deliver greater value.

Sara Núñez describes methods for how to perform assessments to improve business results, especially in service organizations. She provides an eight-step model for projects ranging from confirming the reasons for change, how to accomplish it and then follows up about how to reassess how well it is working. Her model addresses both external and internal needs with a case study and examples for each of the steps. Pavan Kumar Gorakavi provides a real-world case study of a financial crisis in operating a large public sector organization, the Indian Railway System. The approach described outlines four steps to assess problems, analyze the proposed value to be achieved, implement a strategy and evaluate the final outcomes. Proof of the dramatic value of this process occurred across the railway system organization. But what value is organizational change, no matter how achieved, if it is not, or cannot, be sustained?

Marcia Daszko discusses the need for leaders who transform to ensure rapid follow-on organizational learning to sustain the improvements gained. She asks the very relevant question, “What is the role of leadership” (p. 163)? The answer posited is that it is important for leaders to have the courage to challenge the current way things are done, the knowledge to base their change decisions on, the patience and commitment to see the changes through, and the compassion to create the jobs needed rather than taking a strictly bottom-line focus. Daszko says that having a strategic compass with a common goal based on purpose and direction for doing projects well is most important to the organization from a systems point of view and ensures that all of the parts don’t just act as they are supposed to but interact appropriately across the organization to create the desired value.

Adding credence to the theme of this book, a recent survey of practitioners and project management leaders by the Project Management Institute® shows an increasing emphasis on organizational project management: “…organizations are increasingly using a wide variety of means to drive their projects and programs.” The percent of organizations that have a product management office (PMO) now stands just above the two-thirds mark (67%) and nearly that many (63%) have standardized their project management practices across all or most of their enterprise(1). This report confirms the overarching focus of the book that all managers involved in projects can readily apply to their organizational project management.

Gerald Mulenburg, PMP

National Aeronautics and Space Administration (Retired)

Click here for original article.

Note:  Rosemary Hossenlopp lives in California and so doesn’t receive any affiliate income for this book review.  With that disclaimer out of the way, I would really appreciate having conversations with your organization about how to improve how your team can implement processes that tie projects to strategic objectives.

3 Reasons Why Maturity Models are Successful

Cybersecurity Maturity Model

There are dozens of maturity models yet what creates executive level adoption and sponsorship? John Bryk’s CSO article (1) on a Cybersecurity Maturity Model caught my attention. My opinion is that there are three reasons why this maturity model created enterprise-level adoption:

Relevance to what matters in the boardroom
Cybersecurity is the body of technologies, processes and practices designed to protect networks, computers, programs and data from attack, damage or unauthorized access. Significant effort and corporate investments are occurring in this space to increase asset protection and decrease corporate liabilities. Maturity models focused in hot technologies will get attention.
Example: The Oil and Natural Gas Subsector Cybersecurity Capability Maturity Model (ONG-C2M2) was developed in support of a (United States of America) White House initiative led by the Department of Energy (DOE), in partnership with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and in collaboration with private and public-sector experts.

Clear Survey Domains aids in adoption.
Maturity models that are simple, not simplistic will help teams work with everyone, from decision makers to IT operations.
Example: ONG-C2M2 has 10 Cybersecurity domains, each with descriptions of best practices. It combines both risk assessment of operations and management practices. Easy peasy to conduct and explain potential gaps.

Ease of Communication of Why Assessment is needed
If you can quickly communicate both process and value, it helps with getting needed attention and organizational adoption.
Example: the ONG-C2M2 document states that “A maturity model is a set of characteristics, attributes, indicators, or patterns that represent capability and progression in a particular discipline. (which) exemplifies best practices …. A maturity model thus provides a benchmark against which an organization can evaluate the current level of capability of its practices, processes, and methods and set goals and priorities for improvement.” Again pretty easy peasy to communicate to both the teams involved and leadership.

In your experience, what are other ways that help maturity model adoption? Comments welcome below.

PMI® Report on Benefits Realization

How to create a benefits realization plan

Benefits Realization Planning

Benefits Realization Plan

PMI has published an new report on Delivering Value: Focus on benefits during project execution. Report available for Free Download.  PMI provides a tremendous amount of industry insight and transparency by stating “ At a time when the 2016 Pulse of the Profession® report indicates that project results are not only failing to improve, but may even be deteriorating, there is a clear need to help answer question(s) for executives.

Innovators Insight
Pg 12 of this report provides a thoughtful case study written by Dave Davis.  He is a sought-after project manager working in innovation industries. Several observations about the Benefits Realization Initiative Case Study:

  • Utilized iterative cycles
  • Used Change Management techniques to introduce Benefits Realization
  • After 3 years, the initiative may be incorporated into portfolio process.

This is an excellent case study yet business leaders are impatient for change.

Report Headline Buried in Appendix on Page 19
Journalists have a nose to look for the important stuff; the stuff we can change today. The stuff which busy leaders care about. This is report is a well written Call to Action. ” Yet project managers needs a clear Plan of Action.

How to Have both Project Success and Benefits Realization
I’m a project manager that works on innovation projects. I want to help teams accelerate project and outcome success. How? Print out this reports of benefits on page 19.

  • Circle which benefits apply to your project.
  • List benefits in the Agile Project Charter
  • Propose KPI’s which tie to the top benefits
  •  Review Project or Solution Process which enable these top benefits
  • Understand how your customer uses your product or solution.
  • Understand how the roadmap features helps or hurts these customer touch points
  • Create plan to capture data capture around these touch points
  • Create risk plan

By following this checklist, Project Manager can drive teams to successful execution and provide leaders an action plan for how to continue to measure benefits after project launch.

Big Data, Cloud Demand Drive IT Job Growth – InformationWeek

IT job numbers grew in July, but not as fast as they did during the rest of 2016. Yet big data and cloud trends will continue to drive job growth going forward, according to CompTIA researchers.

Sourced through Scoop.it from: www.informationweek.com

IT Project Manager is still one of the top 5 IT Job Posting Titles. Whoo Hoo. My perspective is that leadership views project management as adding value to project outcomes. Why? Because of our leadership in driving to project frameworks that provide agility and therefore the organizations’ competitive advantage.  

My perspective is that leadership views project management as adding value to project outcomes. Why? Because of our leadership in driving to project frameworks that provide agility and therefore the organizations’ competitive advantage.  

The market is seeing a hiring shift away from technology  to XaaS e.g., Everything as a Service and is looking to pick up talent with those skills.