Value – A Project Management Perspective

Projects are synonymous with change and therefore project management becomes center stage for any change effort. The accountable party to bring about that change is the project manager.

We see projects run in many different ways around us, and at times, it leaves a lot to be desired. Depending upon how the project is run, it can be classified in one of the following states:

  • Value Destroyer: These projects do not meet stakeholder needs and are either cancelled, or declared complete without meeting its intended objectives. It amounts to organizations’s loss of time, money and effort.
  • Value Neutral: These projects complete with little or no focus on value delivery. Their sole focus is to somehow complete the project by meeting reasonable stakeholder needs (scope) within acceptable time and by expending allowable amount.
  • Value Enhancer: These projects focus not only on meeting stakeholders’ stated needs, but also take it a notch further by addressing their intended needs. The Project Manager (and therefore, the team) looks beyond what meets the eye. They look for adaptability of the solution to changing business landscape, while keeping strategic objectives in mind. They bring differentiation in “approach” and in how they conduct themselves. Accordingly, the project delivers a solution that leads to customer delight, and leaves a deep sense of accomplishment for all the stakeholders at project closure.

If we were to represent the above outcomes in a normal bell curve distribution, it can be depicted as follows:

Figure 1: Project Management Value Curve

Clearly, the sweet spot on the Project Management Value Curve is on being a value enhancer. As the accountable party, the onus is on the project manager to bring the “value enhancer” mindset to the table. The best way to understand how to deliver to that end of the bell curve is to look at the opposite end of the spectrum (Value Destroyers) and derive value lessons from it.

Consider the following scenarios taken from real-life examples along with the associated value lessons:

  • Project Manager running an agile project: Project continues direction-less for over six months before the management calls it quits. Value Lesson: Seek to understand the end goal as soon as possible, chart the path and engage relevant stakeholders.
  • Project Manager running an important initiative: Few weeks prior to publicized production implementation date tries to transition the responsibility to another individual to avoid fallout from potential failure. Value Lesson: Do not give in to adversity and throw your challenges onto another individual.  Have the courage to stand up to do the right things, own up to the problems and resolve them. Be committed to the effort from start to end.
  • Project Manager not having basic knowledge of Project Management tool being used, and therefore disorients the schedule with every update. It is exacerbated by the fact that the project manager does not fully comprehend ordering of tasks within the project. Value Lesson: Be prepared to learn and seek help in areas you fall short. For a project manager, there is no substitute to a good plan.
  • Project Manager adds or removes tasks (changes the plans at will) in the schedule without stakeholders’ knowledge. Value Lesson: Be honest and transparent in all the actions. They must instill trust. Project Manager should not do anything that impacts his credibility.
  • Project Manager, as part of schedule update, changes tasks completion percentage from “complete” to being “in-progress”, or some other variant of “drop” in completion percentage. Value Lesson: Have a methodology to increment the project completion percentage and marking tasks complete. All tasks must be validated for completion with relevant stakeholders prior to calling it DONE. This is must-have for conveying an accurate project status to the stakeholders.
  • Project Manager does not share project issues with stakeholders until the formal meeting with extended project team, even if the issue causes task roadblocks. Value Lesson: Formal meetings should not be a place to discover new information. Instead, that time must be utilized to address items that require team involvement.
  • Project Manager does not share the bad news until the situation gets to a point of no return. Value Lesson: Bad news gets worse over time. If handled early, solution is the simplest and least expensive, and is a sign of strength (and not weakness).

The above examples of Value Destroyers along with their associated Value Lessons offer great perspective to transition any project to the desired end of the value spectrum.

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