While it may be common for large companies to keep full-time project managers on staff, not every company has the benefit of an experienced PM onsite. There may not be enough staff to dedicate exclusively to managing projects. Or certain projects may need specific skills not present in your company. Or financial resources may simply be lacking.
Sometimes you need to outsource a project manager to bring in the expertise necessary to bring a project to completion. And it is fundamental to have an implementation methodology for that project manager in order to succeed.
Don't Neglect Your Ability to Execute
Some people have a master plan for their life. They create a blueprint of goals and achievements for each life stage. But are often frustrated when things don't go as planned.
Something similar happens with organizations. Many of them strive to define their vision, mission, competitive strategy, principles and values, etc., but then neglect their ability to execute.
A good project manager is one who successfully implements the projects at hand and deliver expected results. Poor implementation, on the other hand, can be disastrous.
Poor Project Execution Leads to Disastrous Consequences
Executing projects poorly can lead to some disastrous results. Some examples:
- EuroDisney's development budget was initially $2.25 billion but ended up costing $4 billion.
- The new Boeing 787 made its maiden flight on December 15, 2009; more than two years after expected.
- Similarly, delays in the A380 put Airbus in financial difficulty.
- At the end of 2001, Rogers communication installed a new software that gave open access to their 423,000 customers’ emails.
These are just a few stories of well-designed plans that put the companies at high risk of bankruptcy or caused irremediable damage to its public image.
So what does it take to successfully implement a project? Here are some key tips to successful project implementation.
Verify Implementation Skills When Outsourcing a Project Manager
As a project manager myself for many years, I understand that a successful project implementation has at least two distinct components:
- To correctly identify the right, feasible project that will have real impact on the reality wanting to change and to then design an action plan
- To carry out the project to end with the satisfaction of all stakeholders
In order to do this, you need to find the right professional. It's amazing to see how many organizations delegate the responsibility for executing its strategic projects to intermediate, or sometimes inexperienced, managers without making sure that the project manager has the right skills to execute.
In today’s sharing economy, you can easily find the right expert for your specific problem. Many freelance marketplaces such as Upwork, Toptal (for remote outsourcing) or Workhoppers (local candidates) allow you to find the project manager with the skills required. But take the time to ensure that you know what your specific challenges are, before investigating that the candidate has the right skills and experience to execute. For example, if you are experiencing client-facing issues, consider what does a client side project manager do before heading to hire.
The traditional approach is to look for “project managers” with glowing diplomas and certificates and then equip them with sophisticated project management software and in the best cases, provide them with adequate staff and office space.
But is all of this sufficient when hiring a freelance project manager?
Most of the time, companies evaluate candidates based on their technical capacities related to the project in question. But executing a good plan requires many soft skills as well. To name a few: team management, risk management, leadership, negotiation, and communication are fundamental to a good implementation.
To validate the capabilities of an outsourced project manager, check for references that demonstrate their experience in implementing similar projects. And above all, it is advisable to question their project management methodology.
Implementing a Results-based Methodology
After many years as a project manager I was pleased to come across a project management methodology called “Delivering the 8” developed by a local consulting company called FGT. It highlighted the implementation side of project management.
The Delivering the 8 methodology requires a results-based management philosophy focused on deliverables very much in line with the McKinsey organizational culture. More than following a plan, the delivery of the needed end-product is the main focus of a project manager.
The Project Management Institute (PMI) recommends at least three qualities in the implementation of projects. Namely that projects should be: delivered on time, within budget and with the agreed-upon functionality and quality. All three are fundamental but not enough to ensure success.
The Delivering the 8 methodology takes into account five additional and essential components:
- delivering in accordance with the strategic objectives of the company
- to the satisfaction of the client
- to the satisfaction of management
- to the satisfaction of the team, and
- learning from continuous evaluation of the project.
So on the one hand, the project manager must remember the goals of the project and ensure its relevance in a changing environment and, on the other hand, they must adapt a continuous evaluation process of the project to constantly improve the approach. All while taking into account the different parties involved.
Reaching expected results while the members of the team are upset is not considered a successful implementation. Finishing on time and on budget but with features that are no longer necessary to the accomplishment of the company strategy is not considered successful, either.
How to Uplevel Your Project Implementation Capacity
Is it difficult to achieve excellence in project execution? Not really if you have a real desire for change.
Targeted training programs, organized coaching, and rapid intervention in the implementation of specific projects quickly produce tangible, lasting results.
Your organization can quickly improve its project implementation capacity by transferring and applying simple concepts and practices such as:
- Defining clear deliverables for each stage
- Aligning them with strategic objectives
- Obtaining commitment from the beginning from all parties involved in the project
- Focusing on results, not on activities
- Implementing a culture of accountability
- Fostering teamwork with clearly identified leaders
- Working backwards from a deadline
- Supervising continuously to make adjustments to the working plan
Project management is an art that requires discipline and great communication skills. The execution of THE PLAN is the key component to success, more so than the plan itself. Every deliverable has to be delivered on time, on budget and with the satisfaction of the client, the management and the team.
Author Bio: Vera Gavizon is co-founder of Workhoppers, a matching site designed to help companies connect directly with local professionals for freelance and part-time jobs. Vera holds a Post-MBA from McGill University. She worked for many years as a Management Consultant at McKinsey & Co. and has many years of experience in private equity. Vera then decided to make a significant change in her career in order to juggle between work and family and after becoming an independent consultant, she envisioned Workhoppers as a solution for independent professionals.