We're all pretty familiar now with process improvement and process maturity, as envisioned by CMMI and others, but process maturity doesn't tell the whole story. Management isn't just about slavishly following “the process” but about making sure that it really is on track, dealing with exceptions or problems as they arise, and proactively looking for potential exceptions or problems in order to either avoid them altogether or deal with them swiftly and effectively to reduce or eliminate impact. Having put the foundations of effecive project managment in place, organisatios such as the Project Management Institute and the UK Office of Government Commerce are moving beyond their respective project management methodologies, documented in the PMBOK (Project Management Book Of Knowledge) and PRINCE2 (PRojects IN Controlled Environments version 2).
The latest work is focused on the role, nature and purpose of the Project/Programme Management Office and it's essential roles in – delivering business value – aligning the project portfolio with business objectives – advising business leaders on potential new projects and their associated business value A consensus is beginning to emerge, rather like the CMMI model, focusing on five levels of project managent maturity. This is a journey towards excellence and business value: Level 1 – Common Language Level 2 – Common Process Level 3 – Singular Methodology Level 4 – Benchmarking Level 5 – Continuous Improvement Level 1 is the baseline, and focuses on establishing a common culture and language in the organisation recognising the need for, and benefits of, formal project management. To achieve this, and organisation must overcome resistance to change and the tempation to leave well enough alone – or even the idea that somehow the organisation has no need for formal project management. Understanding the language of project management, and the impacts of poor or no management, starts the organisation on the journey to improvement. Level 2 establishes project management discipline across the organisation. Care must be taken not to try for a “one size fits all” solution.
Structured project management will help ensure that vital steps aren't missed, and also make it much easier to establish training golas for staff. It also has the benefit that as staff move between projects they can quickly and easily be productive without having to “learn the way WE do it” when joining or seconded to a new team. It can also reduce the administrative or learning burden on staff working for multiple projects. Level 3, the singular methodology, establishes a repeatable toolkit of methods built with experience in the organisation and applicable in whole or appropriate parts to both new and established projects. Singular methodologies not only increase effectiveness and quality, but establish a common framework for reporting across the whole organisation. Level 4, Benchmarking, depends on level three. You can't manage what you can't measure, and you can't compare what you're not measuring in a consistent and comparable way. Behnchmarking isn't a simple exercise – many organisations are fearful of what might be found with an external comparison or lack the data to accurately compare internal performance with external benchmark sources. It also requires managment time and effort to ensure that meaningful comparisons are made.
Benchmarking includes both quantitative and qualitative measures of performance and effectiveness. Level 5 recognises that the world is not static. As an organisation evolves and progresses the people and processes that deliver business value must also change. A continuous improvement culture captures and acts on lessons learned, ensures that knowledge is shared and established a career path with training and mentoring for staff at all levels. So consider where you stand on the five levels of management maturity and what you need to do to move forward.