Improved Project Success as a Risk Abatement Strategy
The fast growing discipline of Project Management has established itself as the most frequently utilised technique in managing risk and uncertainty.
Unfortunately we have experienced lately that some major projects have turned into disasters with the Medupi Power Station the most vivid example. This project, critical to the national economy, has soared from the originally projected cost of R69 billion and scheduled for completion in 4 years to an optimistically estimated cost of R159 billion and a wishful delivery time of 12 years!
This does not reflect well on the utilisation of such a vital risk abatement mechanism and calls for serious scrutiny of the underlying causes.
In order to evaluate the performance of any tool or technique a thorough understanding of the underlying principles is required. Project Management is a systemised applied discipline and accordingly it is subject to a formal process bound by specific rules of control and orderly behaviour characteristic to it. Project success is primarily a function of the level of adherence to these fundamental doctrines of the discipline and negation thereof is the primary cause of project problems and ultimate failure.
For the project management user to appreciate the potential impact of non-conformance to these basic principles, a thorough understanding of the fundamentals of the discipline is vital. The first article in this series will therefore provide a broad outline of these principles.
Project Management Philosophy
Project management as an applied discipline is subject to a number of key principles which serve as the foundation of the philosophy behind its inception and development. These basic principles stem from the objectives of Project Management to achieve a specific objective through:
- Integrating holistic viewing and a multi-disciplinary perspective through Systems Thinking.
- Minimising Risk by breaking work down into small units and following a life-cycle approach.
- Focusing on achieving the ultimate delivery of an agreed objective; being Goal Orientated.
- Calling for Accountability through a single node of control vested in the project manager and based on a contracted baseline.
- Incorporating strict Financial Discipline.
Project Management Defined
Broadly stated Project Management could be described as a special form of management, applied under specific circumstances, to improve the likelihood of the achievement of clearly stated objectives, through the application of a disciplined approach, which is ensured through the application of a formal process whereby the necessary inputs are integrated and optimised. Its distinct temporary nature requires very specific skills in managing the process.
In more specific terms, Project Management may be defined as:
- An unique, Non-Repetitive endeavour
- With a defined Beginning and End
- Aimed at achieving agreed upon clearly specified and measurable Objectives
- To a Client’s Satisfaction
- In an integrated manner following a Life-Cycle approach
- Abating Risk through breaking work down into manageable units or tasks
- While consuming the allocated Resources
- Within the constraints of Functional and Geometrical Specifications (Quality) as well as agreed Cost and Time Limits
- Controlled through a Single Point of Responsibility
- Governed by a Project Plan serving as the Baseline against which progress is measured and Deviations detected and addressed
- Often cutting Across Organisational Boundaries.
Preconditions for the Utilisation of Project Management
Project Management as a discipline was developed to cope with specific demands made on an organisation and its management. The distinctive conditions which have to prevail, in order to render the utilisation of Project Management as a viable option, may include the following:
- The task is of a non-repetitive nature.
- The task is large and/or complex.
- Substantial risk is involved.
- The integration of activities across functional boundaries is required.
- There exists a need for the utilisation of common resources.
- The outcome of the venture is of major importance.
In the next article in the series we will analyse some specific reasons for project failure.
Peter Michel 2015 – Crest Advisory Africa certified trainer.