Getting Your Company to Believe in Project Management

Imagine this, you work at a company that does not “believe” in project management; however, they do project management every day without realizing it. What should you do to help convince them the value of formalizing this process? Actually this is the situation I was in many years ago when I worked at an architecture engineering firm that did project after project and had over 30 people using the title “project manager” even though not a single person had the Project Management Institute’s PMP® credential. During this time, I was heavily involved in my local PMI chapter assisting the board and I worked in the Administrative group as an IT person. Obviously I had no formal training in engineering or architecture so trying to convince anyone that PMI and their principles had value was virtually impossible and YES, people even laughed at me. During this time in my career, I really didn’t know what I should specialize in and if you take a look at Microsoft’s website, I am sure you realize the enormous number of software packages and credentials that exist out there. Also, I was not really sure I wanted to specialize in server administration even though that was already 25% of my job. Due to some thoughts from my manager at the time (thanks Ken if you are reading this), he suggested I go for PMI’s PMP credential. He really thought that this would help the IT department internally to better manage projects. What a great idea!

Therefore, I was off to get my PMP and at the same time manage another complicated software upgrade. After 6 months of education and training and passing the exam, I was very excited to use all of my new found knowledge. I volunteered to one of the project managers at the company to work for free after hours to see if I could help them run their projects or at least assist on a schedule or cost basis. And would you believe I was turned down? Not just once but so many times I lost count. It really shocked me to discover not a single person outside of the IT department valued my credential or training and experience. So I decided to consult my associates at PMI for their thoughts.

As it turns out, the local PMI chapter schedules one monthly dinner meeting that included a panel discussion on the topic of enterprise project management (EPM). Some of the companies represented included Steelcase, Amway, and Spectrum Health. The number one question everyone wanted answered was “How do I get support for project management in my company?”. Below is a brief summary of what I learned:

  • Don’t force feed PM from the top down.
  • Show success on one project and share that success.
  • Try only one PM “trick” at a time. Example – scope statement template.

Basically forcing project management for the enterprise will never work. You really have to get buy in. Over the years and working at several companies and consulting with many others, I see lots of problems with trying to convince people the power of project management. Here is a list of some things that tend to backfire when implementing enterprise project management:

  • Having the president mandate “we will use pm”
  • Hiring a PM Director to oversee all the existing PMs in the company when only the PM Director is certified
  • Having training sessions on PM topics and noticing people only show up for the free food.
  • Buying PM software and assuming just having it will make managing your projects better

What really does work and what I tried at the architecture engineering firm mentioned above was do a book exchange. You might think this is funny but what I did was ask a VP of the company (also an architect) to share with me a book on his profession so I could learn more about it and I shared one with him so he could learn more about PM. The book I shared was Winning in Business with Enterprise Project Management by Paul Dinsmore. I picked this book because it was easy to read and very convincing about the power of PM. What surprised the VP/architect and myself were some similar concepts between the professions and even some similar business theories were discussed. Also, the VP realized that he could really stand to learn more about PM. After this idea of mine, I actually unintentionally ended up getting a spokesperson in the company on PM and as it turns out, he was willing to try some of my PM processes and tools on his next project.

I realize the book I selected might not be the newest book in the profession, but here is what I liked aboutWinning in Business with Enterprise Project Management:

  • A principle is listed on a page by itself before each chapter so later on you can find them easily.
  • Very catchy chapter titles… “Cookbooks, Restaurants, and Enterprise Project Management and “Project Management, Elephants, and the NBA .
  • Any person with average business knowledge will be able to pick up the book and understand it.
  • It introduces enterprise project management in a way that convinces people you must do it.

Since that time, the company has held study groups for PMP certification, they hold regular training sessions on project management for anyone who is interested, and the accounting department even reviews earned value on projects throughout the company. They also took away the “project management” title from numerous people. It took the company a very long time to realize that some people are better as the subject matter expert and some are better at overall project management. What a welcome surprise to see all of these changes over the years. Some of the benefits this company achieved from implementing enterprise project management are: better processes which reduce project learning curves; better understanding of how to manage deliverables and still meet the client’s needs; and finally more profitable projects (you can’t beat that).

The last few jobs I have had, people are always borrowing books off my desk. Anything by Dr. Harold Kerzner is always gone. I finally had to start keeping a log of “who has what”. So despite all the new trends in project management that you may be reading about, I would suggest you give the book exchange a try and see what happens in your company. To close, all I can say is no matter what you try to do and implement to get better success in PM, what really seems to work is “rumor mill talk” about project management.

http://www.allpm.com/index.php?name=News&file=article&sid=2317

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