Many readers of my blog will know that I have discussed Best Practices in project management practices and processes a number of times. Basically, a Best Practice is a process that an organization or group has utilized a number of times and achieved success with many times in regard to the objectives and outcomes of the process many. Best Practices are usually defined within a group by examining the practices of the group, reviewing and monitoring the results of the process, and then recording the outcomes for future use in other applications.
What I described above is, of course, an ideal situation. In my experience working with a number of PMOs and project groups, they often understand the intellectual nature of Best Practices, and they utilize processes time and again that yield good results, but they fall short of actually defining these processes as Best Practices and, therefore, they lose out on leveraging, capitalizing, and finessing Best Practices to their advantage. That is the theme and message of this post. How can project groups and project managers take full advantage of internal Best Practices?
This is not my definition but that of Harold Kerzner, a recognized project management leader and teacher. Some people may also think of Best Practices from an industry standpoint. There are many recognized practices in project management that companies have employed, and which have been adopted by companies benchmarking their practices. In this case, I am referring to internally developed Best Practices, and the utility of those practices within a firm.
I have used the following example of a Best Practice within my own household as a means of defining exactly what I mean by Best Practices, and getting every reader on a common footing.
Within my household, my wife and I have divided the laundry duties into washing/drying and folding/distribution. For a typical load of clothes containing several bath towels, wash clothes, and hand towels, along with other white goods used in our household, at the time of folding the laundry and distributing it, I have developed a Best Practice of folding the large bath towels first so that I can see the other smaller pieces more clearly and fold them more quickly. This allows the process to be completed quickly and smoothly. It also affects final quality of the folded pieces. Therefore, from a Best Practice standpoint the outcomes are improved schedule and quality of products.
As I have pointed out in other blogs wherein I have described this household Best Practice, one of the reasons this is a Best Practice is because it would not apply to any of my neighbors living on the same street. It is highly unlikely that the typical laundry load for any of these neighbors would be similar to our laundry load. In other word, the “business context” is different.
But this leads me to the finesse in project management to which I alluded to in the title for this blog.
Usually, I fold the laundry with the objective of returning the clean clothes to the household inventory for future use. But suppose I have a different objective, or a different interface process with this Best Practice. Suppose, for example, we are preparing to travel to a resort for a short vacation. In this case, I might order the results of my Best Practice differently to mesh well with the interface process. I might put the white clothes in different stacks to pack them in individual suitcases for the trip.
The upshot of this discussion is that I can anticipate how this Best Practice process will mesh with any interface process, and impact the inputs to the interface process through “planning” accordingly. Now this probably does not come as any great revelation to the reader, but it is finesse of the form that many project managers don’t anticipate or plan for in their everyday project management practices.
Let’s take an example. Suppose your project management group has developed an Organizational Change Management (OCM) best practices process for introducing the changes from the project in a way that impacts its users in a minimum way. In other words, users of the new process developed by the project are fully involved and participatory in the development and implementation of the new process. Now suppose that this OCM best practice process can impact several different organizations within your company. As the project manager, you might anticipate how the various organizations might react to and incorporate the outputs and results of the OCM best practice process so that it is most compatible with the cultures of the different groups affected by the project.
As an example of this concept, suppose your OCM best practice process has a plan for one group involving super-user training of the systems applications associated with the new process, and for a different group, you have planned for a series of group presentations outlining how the new process differs from the old, and how each person’s role in the success of the process is carried out. As the project manager, you have the opportunity to guide the timing and development of the materials for each group. It is similar to my example of stacking the laundry differently for renewing the household inventory versus packing suitcases for a resort trip.
Now many of you may react by saying “That’s just project management. There is no finesse there.” But the very fact that you have started with a Best Practice process makes this different. The consistency and repeatability you have insured by using a Best Practice has instilled a “quality” to the outputs for the interface process that could not be achieved otherwise. The ingredients that went into making it a Best Practice process will insure that the interface process is of high quality and delivered with finesse.
As the organization matures this Best Practice process, it will get better and better about delivery. However, the project manager must be cognizant of changes in the project environment or business context that would potentially alter the process. Since OCM processes usually employ resources with different skills, competencies and capabilities, this finesse will give the project manager more latitude in his planning and accommodation of resources at the right time with the right skills to insure success.
However, some project organizations do not know that they have best practices. They may employ a process over and over with success but never acknowledge that it is a best practice for their project group. If this is the case, they also lose the leverage of being able to anticipate and enhance the outcomes to feed the inputs to the interface processes.
When I worked for a previous employer, for example, our principal products were natural gas processing plants built at the well heads of oil and gas facilities that removed the impurities and water from natural gas, and rendered a product of sufficient quality to feed the gas utility distribution systems. Every processing facility at the well head had issues with startup or quality of products produced by the plant. So, the project group employed an engineer whose principal job was to “troubleshoot” every new installation for startup problems and resolve those problems as quickly as possible to minimize the on-line startup time and schedule. His startup process was successful every time. They continued to employ it. Did they ever acknowledge that this process might be a Best Practice for the group? No.
That is where the finesse in understanding the power of Best Practices can yield great results. But most project groups do not go that extra mile to understanding Best Practices.
Those project organizations who invest the time and effort in leveraging Best Practices will see rewards in their process development.
Try these ideas on one of your organization’s Best Practice processes. I think you will agree with me that it is easy to see how “theory” and “materiality of results” can be easily linked and implemented. Thank you!!!.